Indiana House Democrats attempt to amend state biennial budget with 2021 legislative priorities

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana House Democratic Caucus today introduced amendments to the state biennial budget aimed at supporting teachers, traditional K-12 schools and pre-k, public health, working families and small businesses. Amid a global pandemic, the Republican supermajority voted down each proposal with no alternative solutions to provide additional funding to the bedrock of the Hoosier State.

Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) pitched a blueprint for a better Indiana at the beginning of the 2021 Legislative Session. During his speech on Organization Day, GiaQuinta noted that the issues we face today are no different than the ones Hoosiers have faced for the last few decades. Instead, Indiana's quality of life issues in areas of education, health and economic inequality have only been magnified by the impacts of a global pandemic.

“For the past few years I've talked about the need to invest in Indiana's human capital. Now that our state is embroiled in a global pandemic, it's even more critical than ever. Instead of creating new line-items for vague future capital projects and an even fuzzier regional recovery program, House Democrats are focused on the priorities that will help Hoosiers in need now.

“We want to ensure that local public schools get the funding they need, give Hoosier educators the overdue pay raises they deserve, help Hoosiers struggling with mental health issues and build up the state's public health infrastructure so we're better prepared for the next public health crisis. Budgets are about priorities, and I think House Democrats have the right priorities.”

 

Support for Teachers

Teacher pay raise.

Authored by State Representative Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis)

Amendment 7 to House Bill 1001 would increase educator wages with teacher retention bonus matching grants. 

“Hoosier educators are regularly asked to do more and more without any significant wage increase,” DeLaney said. “Often, they are doing more at their own expense. Educators have been unsung heroes, especially throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, but heroism does not pay the bills. Hoosier Republicans say they want to address our teacher pay problem in interviews and on the campaign trail, but vote down every proposal to do it. Indiana has not seen teacher salaries reflecting both national averages and rates of inflation since the GOP took complete control of state government in 2010. We must do better.”

The proposal was voted down 68-29 on the House floor.

 

Support for Traditional K-12 Schools

$300 million tuition support restoration.

Authored by State Representative Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis)

Amendment 1 to House Bill 1001 would rectify the approximately $300 million debt the State of Indiana owes public schools and students from recession budget cuts.

“An investment in traditional K-12 schools is an investment in Indiana's progress and prosperity,” Porter said. “Hoosier public schools are losing ground each session as the Republican supermajority diverts funding to charter and voucher schools. Restoring nearly $300 million in cuts made by Governor Mitch Daniels during the economic recession would have been a significant step forward.”

The proposal was voted down 62-28 on the House floor.

 

Support for Pre-K

$100 million increase for pre-k programs.

Authored by State Representative Terri Austin (D-Anderson)

Amendment 19 to House Bill 1001 appropriates an extra $100 million ($50 million per year) to the existing pre-k program.

“The benefits of pre-k in this state have been proven time and time again,” Austin said. “The program provides a stable foundation for young children and helps them develop essential learning and developmental skills. I’m disappointed that the Republican budget abandons Hoosier youth by refusing to allocate any new money for expanding opportunities to working families who need the assistance now more than ever.”

The proposal was voted down 70-28 on the House floor.

 

Support for Public Health

Public health investments.

Authored by State Representative Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis)

Amendment 24 to House Bill 1001 strides to improve Indiana's abysmal public health statistics with investments in the following: creating a doula and prescription drug rebate program; local health departments; C.H.O.I.C.E. in-home services; tax amnesty for minority health; and implementing a state health care exchange.

“Indiana consistently ranks in the bottom of the nation when it comes to health and wellness,” Shackleford said. “Now we are in the midst of a pandemic that feeds off of Indiana’s failures, like our obesity and tobacco use rates. By properly funding local health departments and programs like doula services and in-home care services, we are empowering Hoosiers to take charge of their health and seek care when they need it.”

The proposal was voted down 68-29 on the House floor.

 

Support for Working Families

Minimum wage increase.

Authored by State Representative Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis)

Amendment 21 to House Bill 1001 ties the minimum wage and any future increases to legislator salaries. It would be based on the annual salary of a state legislator divided by 2,080 hours for an hourly wage of $13.07. Currently, the minimum wage in Indiana is $7.25 and a living wage is $14.07.

“We are public servants, and we have gotten increases while Hoosiers try to make ends meet on a dismal $7.25 that was deemed livable 10 years ago,” Pryor said. “That amount is barely $15,000 a year. Hoosiers should not have to work multiple jobs to keep the lights on, have a roof over their heads and put food on their tables. Those are basic rights, and if one job doesn’t pay for that, then we are not doing our job at the Statehouse.”

The proposal was voted down 66-28 on the House floor.

 

Student loan debt relief.

Authored by State Representative Earl Harris, Jr. (D-East Chicago)

Amendment 17 to House Bill 1001 would have created the Student Loan Relief Grant. The grant would have assisted low-income Hoosiers with more than $5,000 in student loan debt in repaying their student loans.

“While our state continues to see a downward trend in overall college enrollment, 21st Century Scholars are consistently beating that trend and enrolling at higher rates,” Harris said. “Financial support, like scholarships, empower students to pursue higher education by easing the massive financial burden that comes with a degree. The Student Loan Relief Grant would be another opportunity for Indiana to support our students by assisting low-income Hoosiers in repaying their student loans. Our students deserve to be rewarded for their achievements, not punished.”

The proposal was voted down 67-29 on the House floor.

 

Support for Small Business Support

Small business sales tax rebate.

Authored by State Representative Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville)

Amendment 25 to House Bill 1001 allows eligible small businesses to receive up to $5,000 in sales tax relief.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, as well as our economy,” Hatfield said. “I have seen too many mom and pop shops close their doors in my neighborhood and I know that’s taking a toll on Hoosier families. One in five restaurants have closed in Indiana amid the pandemic, and countless more are hanging by a thread. The state has ample means to provide much needed sales tax relief, so let’s get these small businesses the help they deserve to weather the rest of this pandemic.”

The proposal was voted down 66-29 on the House floor.

 

Work share.

Authored by State Representative Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville)

Amendment 25 to House Bill 1001 would establish a work share program for the state, which is a voluntary and cost-effective alternative to traditional unemployment benefits.

“The fact that this remains an untouched resource for Hoosiers is inexcusable,” Hatfield said. “We are pouring federal money down the drain every year we don’t tap into a workshare opportunity in our state and I think unemployed Hoosiers would greatly appreciate our efforts to rectify this. By not adopting a work share program, Indiana is turning its back on saving thousands of jobs and at least $100 million in free federal money.”

The proposal was voted down 66-29 on the House floor.

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