INDIANAPOLIS – The state of Indiana could restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to schools as part of the House budget proposal released on Friday.
Lawmakers allocated $442 million of additional money to Indiana schools, but did not include the Gov. Pence’s much-discussed tax cut plan in the state’s bi-yearly budget proposal.
“There are a lot of needs out there, and different interests,” said Ways & Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. “We’re making priority investments in education, and priority investments in transportation.”
The budget adds $250 million per year in sustainable funding for roads and bridges, $40 million per year for the Department of Child Services, and $33 million for workforce training programs.
But it’s the governor’s tax cut plan that continues to draw the most attention and debate at the Statehouse, where both the House and Senate are controlled by Republican supermajorities.
“The governor and his staff are aware that the income tax cut is not in the House budget,” Brown said. “But we’ll continue to have discussion and debate.”
Gov. Pence responded Friday in a written statement, calling out members of his own party for not including his tax cut proposal.
“I am very disappointed in the House budget proposal,” Pence said. “Despite having the largest budget surplus in history, this House budget increases spending without giving hardworking Hoosiers one cent of new tax relief. As our administration’s budget clearly showed, we can afford to do both. Indiana can fund our priorities including increases for roads and schools and reduce the personal income tax.”
The governor gained an unlikely ally in his cause Friday. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, told reporters he would try to get an up-or-down vote on Pence’s tax cut plan on the House floor this session.
“We’re going to ensure that’s going to happen, and some Democrats are going to support it,” Rep. Pelath said. “I can assure Gov. Pence and the two supermajorities there’s going to be some Democratic support for this effort. They don’t think it’s the best idea ever, but it’s an idea.”
Pelath was asked if his motive was simply to put Republican legislators in a corner, forcing them to cast a vote against either the Governor’s plan, or that of their own leadership.
“They don’t have to vote against it,” he responded, adding that he might also support the tax cut if it came to a vote on the floor.
“This is the one bold idea that’s been brought forward, and I think to ignore it is a mistake,” he said.
Brown said his focus was on restoring funding to Indiana schools.
“Every legislator had education on their heart,” Brown said. “That’s why it was a top priority.”
Tonya Schwartz, a parent in Brownsburg, told Fox59 that she was glad the state was putting some money back into education.
“It’s good to add it back in,” Schwartz said. “Kids need all kinds of programs, and funding is important to continue that.”
Lawmakers plan to finalize the budget before the end of the legislative session in late April.
A breakdown of the state’s proposed budget has been posted online.