Indiana House Democrats: House GOP budget doesn’t meet state’s education, health care, and working families’ needs

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Democrats put education, health care, and working families first in their priorities for the new state budget, but House Republicans rejected those efforts in favor of prioritizing the state surplus and tax breaks for large corporations.

Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) said, “House Republicans continue to tout the state’s AAA credit rating and make unsubstantiated claims that House Democrats want to spend over $1 billion of the state’s surplus. What House Democrats have actually worked on are proposals for the House Republican budget that would expand pre-K statewide; increase teacher pay now; sufficiently fund school safety initiatives; support low-to-middle income working families by increasing the earned income tax credit from 9 to 11 percent, increasing the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and studying the benefits of paid family medical leave; and protecting health care for millions of Hoosiers with pre-existing conditions.”

State Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) offered a proposal to the two-year state budget that would expand Indiana’s pre-K program statewide. Hamilton’s proposal would have increased funding from $44 million to $175 million for the biennium and expanded the pre-K program to include all eligible providers in every county in Indiana.

Hamilton said, “The benefits of pre-K in assisting a child’s early development have been studied and proven effective for many years. It is time to stop considering pre-K as a pilot program for Indiana. We need to expand it to all 92 counties and we need to do it now. We’ve already passed legislation this session (House Bill 1628) that could pave the way for statewide pre-K, but the budget provides zero new dollars for the program. My proposal would have significantly increased funding for an investment that would support our children and working families.”

State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) introduced a proposal that would have increased teacher pay now. This is the second time this legislative session that Republicans have voted against giving teachers a legitimate pay raise.

Porter said, “I proposed a clear and simple solution: take money generated from the renegotiated Indiana Toll Road agreement to pay for a 5 percent raise for every full-time Indiana teacher. This proposal would have given teachers a significant pay raise in the same amount of time – two years – that the Governor’s teacher pay commission will take to simply study the issue.”

State Rep. Melanie Wright (D-Yorktown) introduced a proposal that would significantly increase funding for the Indiana School Safety Fund. Wright’s proposal would have removed the matching requirement for schools to access Secured School Fund grant money and dedicated up to $100 million per fiscal year to improve school security infrastructure and increase the number of ILEA-trained School Resource Officers in Indiana’s schools.

The funding for Wright’s amendment would come from state budget reversions. More than $450 million in state funds were reverted in the most recent budget.

Wright said, “My colleagues in the House majority have continued to put an emphasis on the importance of school safety and their concern with the limited funds in the Secured School Fund, yet their budget would only increases the amount of money in the fund by $5 million. The need for funding is far greater than that and we owe it to our children to put more money behind our efforts to keep them safe at school.”

State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) offered a three-point plan that would have supported low-to-middle income working families across Indiana by increasing the earned income tax credit from 9 to 11 percent, increasing the minimum wage to $8.50, and studying paid family medical leave.

Pryor said, “It’s past time we put the people before wealthy corporations here in Indiana. We should be implementing policies to increase the earned income tax credit that has remained stagnant since 2003, increase the minimum wage and understand the benefits of paid family medical leave to support hardworking Hoosiers and their families.”

Representative Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) introduced a proposal that would require insurance plans sold in Indiana to include coverage for pre-existing conditions as defined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). His proposal also would have prevented the Attorney General from using his appropriation to join any case that invalidates any portion of the ACA.

The House majority missed an opportunity to fully protect Hoosiers with pre-existing conditions by only supporting the first half of DeLaney’s proposal. If House Republicans are serious about protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions, they need to join House Democrats in preventing the Attorney General from using taxpayer dollars to support a lawsuit that would sabotage the ACA and strip health care coverage from hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers.

DeLaney said, “When you look at the entire scope of the health care debate taking place in our country, one of the major concerns people have when pursuing coverage is whether they can even get a policy for medical conditions they already have. Thanks to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many policies are now required to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, but with the uncertainty surrounding the Trump Administration’s attitudes toward the ACA, states must ensure that coverage does exist, no matter what Washington does. Additionally, our Attorney General should be using his powers to protect health care for the people of Indiana, not undermine them.”

While Indiana House Republicans accepted part of a health care amendment on pre-existing conditions from DeLaney on Thursday, they defeated more than 25 proposed changes from House Democrats to the two-year state budget.

House Bill 1001 passed today on a party-line vote.

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