Pre-K voucher program not dead yet, soccer stadium funding likely tabled

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 6, 2014) – With just a week left in this year’s legislative session, state lawmakers are still considering a measure that would create a pilot voucher program for preschoolers.

The original version of House Bill 1004 called for a pilot program to give vouchers to 1,000 preschoolers in high poverty homes.

The Senate Education committee threw out that idea and replaced it with a study program.

But on Thursday, Senate president Pro Tem David Long told reporters that lawmakers were looking at an “alternative concept” on the bill that might involve more than just a study committee.

“The key is how are we going to pay for it?” said Long. “(We’re) working through that right now trying to find consensus on that beyond just the study.”

Gov. Mike Pence has also been calling for lawmakers to go forward with the pilot program this year.

“The governor is definitely involved in all the discussions, as he needs to be at this point,” said Long. “There’s a lot of give and take. It’s been positive and I’m feeling more confident that we can find something by the end of next week.”

Lawmakers have until next Friday to finish their negotiations on several key items, including the plan to start phasing out the state’s business personal property tax.

Long said lawmakers were close to a deal on the tax issue as well, likely focusing on a local option that was first proposed in the House.

But Long also said another hotly-debated issue was not likely to move forward this year, telling reporters he wanted to be “cautious” on a bill that would help Indy’s new soccer team capture tax revenue to build a new stadium.

Not long after Long’s remarks, Indy Eleven Owner Ersal Ozdemir issued the following statement, suggesting he had given up hope a bill could be passed this session:

“We appreciate all the support and the warm reception we received in our effort to engage legislators about Indy Eleven and the state’s passionate soccer community at the statehouse during this short session. Having not been given a red card, we remain committed to working with legislators with an eye toward coming back next session and continuing the discussion about Indy Eleven’s successful launch and its economic impact on our community and state.”

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