SENATE BUDGET PROTECTS EDUCATION AND MEDICAID STATEHOUSE
Indiana Senate Republicans recently unveiled a balanced, two-year state budget that protects education and Medicaid and funds job creation, roads and public safety.
Our Senate budget proposal makes appropriate use of temporary, federal stimulus monies, yet purposely maintains our state’s emergency cash reserves because there is no perfect forecast for the duration and severity of our national economic storm. In that light, some sections of the bill are written to go into effect immediately in order to help support this year’s struggling state budget.
Tough Times, Tough Decisions
While faced with crafting the $28.1 billion budget, lawmakers learned state revenues generated by sales and income taxes were again down in March due to the recession. Cognizant of this report and gloomy forecasts for the foreseeable future, senators wrote an even more conservative plan. Our budget is based on realistic levels of unemployment and continued revenue shortfalls. We hoped and will work for the best, but prepared for the worst. Fortunately, new revenue forecasts for the state will be available on April 17, giving lawmakers time to make further budget changes before the session ends April 29.
Continued frugal management of Indiana state government should help us avoid what would have been even tougher decisions and deeper cuts this session. Not knowing the length or severity of this economic storm, it will be ever-important for Indiana lawmakers to protect the state’s emergency cash reserves, especially given the temporary nature and duration of the federal stimulus funds.
House Democrats earlier this session proposed, passed and sent to the Senate an unconventional one-year budget. Senate Republicans are convinced a two-year budget is not only achievable, but advisable. Looking across the country, many of the same states facing the most difficult financial hardships are often those with short-term one-year budgets. Those in better shape are often the two-year budget states whose taxpayers expect more long-range planning and policymaking of lawmakers.
Here are major funding areas in the Senate Republican budget proposal:
K-12 & Higher Education
Under the Senate GOP’s 2010-2011 budget proposal, Indiana’s public K-12 schools would see a statewide increase of 1.9 percent in fiscal year 2010 and a 2.1 percent statewide increase in 2011. In all, public K-12 schools will receive more than $6.4 billion in 2010 and almost $6.6 billion in 2011. Higher education would also receive $34 million over two years to assist with increased enrollment of students seeking and updating professional skills.
Job Creation & Transportation
Bio- and life-science initiatives would receive $185 million over two-years to further diversify Indiana’s economy by developing and commercializing advanced technologies and maximizing Indiana’s competitiveness for federal and private grant monies. State and local transportation projects in the proposed budget could result in as many as 70,000 road-construction jobs and pave the way for future long-term economic development in areas where projects are completed.
Public Health & Family Services
Senate Republicans want to protect Hoosiers from losing access to critical health services during these difficult economic times. Medicaid coverage of children, low-income working parents, the disabled and elderly will see increases due in-part to the one-time infusion of federal stimulus dollars.
Public Safety & Corrections
Indiana’s Department of Corrections would receive a critical increase under the Senate GOP budget. Miami and Wabash correctional facilities will receive authority to issue bonds to pay for more inmate space, so Indiana doesn’t join the list of states forced to make mass releases of dangerous criminals. Community corrections, an important and cost-effective crime diversion program, would receive a $3 million increase over the biennium. The state’s general fund would absorb $16 million in additional operating costs for the Indiana State Police, freeing a like amount for county governments to utilize for road improvements
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.