Indiana House Democrats release list of expectations for state biennial budget
INDIANAPOLIS – Ahead of a vote on the conference committee report for House Bill 1001, leaders from the Indiana House Democratic Caucus today released the following statement with a list of expectations for the state biennial budget. A recent rosy revenue forecast and additional federal stimulus dollars from the American Rescue Plan leave between $7 and $9 billion in additional funds that can be invested in the upcoming budget. Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) and Ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee Gregory Porter (D-Indianapolis) want to see this new-found money strategically reinvested to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers.
“We are looking at a very different picture now than we were last year,” GiaQuinta said. “With this unforeseen avalanche in forecasted revenue and federal funding, we have more potential for recovery than we thought possible before. Indiana House Democrats expect this to be addressed in the budget with more support allotted to our local public schools, early childhood education, food banks and public and mental health initiatives. These are the engines that must run efficiently if we expect the rest of the state to remain on course.”
“It’s a whole new ballgame now,” Porter said. “We heard a lot of doom and gloom over the past year, and understandably so, it was a hard year for Indiana. But our state is strong, and we’ve recovered better than anyone expected. So now we owe it to the taxpayers who fought through it all to find new ways to use these funds and help our constituents. Indiana House Democrats want to see a bipartisan budget that works for all Hoosiers.”
Support for Traditional K-12 Public Schools. Indiana House Democrats want to see meaningful investments in our state's traditional K-12 public schools. The Republican supermajority has prioritized the expansion of vouchers and Education Savings Accounts (ESA), diverting critical funding away from the school districts that educate 90% of Hoosier students. Without a change in priorities, Indiana voucher plans stand to take 1/3 of the school funding boost despite the additional obstacles traditional public schools have faced amid a global pandemic.
Pre-K. Indiana House Democrats believe all Hoosier parents should be able to send their children to a high-quality and affordable pre-K program. Statistics show that attending an early childhood education program will have lasting impacts on the academic career of students. The current version of House Bill 1001 maintains pre-K funding at current levels, leaving gaps in access. High tuition and low state investment leaves most of our state's four-year-olds behind.
Teacher Pay. Indiana House Democrats are calling for a solution to the state's lagging teacher pay problem while Statehouse Republicans are again redirecting the issues to local authority. The Next Level Teacher Pay Commission found that $60,000 would make Indiana a competitive state for teacher pay, but right now the average teacher is only making $53,100. After years of salary stagnation led to a teacher shortage, Indiana House Democrats want a budget that incorporates the money required to adequately and sustainably address this problem.
Support for Struggling Working Families. Indiana House Democrats want to advocate for the working families hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic with comprehensive and innovative proposals.
Student Loan Debt Relief. Indiana House Democrats want to throw a lifeline to the countless Hoosier borrowers drowning under a mountain of student loan debt. Postsecondary education should be an opportunity for personal and professional advancement, and not an anchor paralyzing our working families. The Republican budget plan does not have the bold, innovative solutions required to help 59% of Hoosiers borrowers with an average of $29,562 in student loan debt.
Public and Mental Health Initiatives. Indiana House Democrats want to tackle the state's abysmal and inequitable health statistics as Hoosiers rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food Banks. Indiana House Democrats' first concern is the health and well-being of Hoosiers, which is why we believe in increased state support for our food banks. 15% of Indiana families are facing food insecurity and the global pandemic has pushed our state's food banks to operational limits. Instead of bolstering these specialized services for their disaster and emergency response efforts, Republicans have chosen to stagnate food banks' allotted state dollars.