Porter: State budget fails the people of Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, today issued the following statement on House Bill 1001, the biennial state budget:
“Any budget crafted by Republicans in this era is committed to one goal: preserving a state surplus. No other consideration ranks as high.
“This budget lives up to that history. For all the talk about wanting to help teachers and public schools and the Department of Child Services (DCS), the one thing that still drives the Republicans is keeping the state surplus at levels that choke off any serious consideration of funding programs that help Hoosiers. Their rhetoric is comparable to alligators, but their actions are more like hummingbirds.
“Here are just a few things they got wrong:
“They will talk about all they have done for traditional public schools, but the fact is that their budget fails to provide even a modest increase above inflation. For public schools – which educate around 94 percent of our students – the increases are 2.06 percent the first year and 2.07 percent in the second. The basic inflation rate is 1.9 percent. You can do the math to see the tangible benefits here.
“Who does benefit? Voucher funding is expanded by another $18 million, primarily by adding another tier of funding that gives more families greater incentives to go to a voucher school instead of even trying a public school. Of course, charters aren’t left out of the largesse. Charter School grants are increased from $500 to $750, with the funding coming from outside the formula. Why? Who knows?
“Our pre-K program is magically expanded from 20 to 90 counties, but funding remains at the same $22 million per year as in previous budgets. By the way, that $22 million doesn’t even help fulfill the demand for students in the 20 counties that presently have the program, and the program itself isn’t even considered valid by national officials who grade preschool efforts because of our absurd workforce requirements on parents of children who are interested in taking part in pre-K.
“As others have noted, the funding for DCS is at least $70 million lower than what was originally requested by the governor. While I would like to trust the claims made by officials that improvements to DCS operations are contributing to the need for less funding, I will also note that the recent history of this particular agency would demonstrate that vigilance over its operations is absolutely mandated. If we are asked for more funding in the future, I would not be surprised in the least.
“When we look at the commitment to social services, I cannot help but note that programs like food banks and CHOICE continue to get the same amount of funding they have received for more than a decade. Our rhetoric about helping those who are hungry and those who need in-home health care is not matched by our actions.
“And let me add one more thing. On their surplus statement, the Republicans say there will be only around $55 million in reversions each year of the biennium. Past history has demonstrated they lowball reversions to the point where as much as $400 million gets turned back to the surplus. This budgetary gimmick will take hundreds of millions of dollars off the table when we are doing nothing to increase pay for Hoosier teachers or making an effort to provide more support for programs that help buttress our human infrastructure. The only thing that will benefit will be the surplus.
“This budget fails the people of Indiana.”