House, Senate Negotiators Have Plenty of Budget Differences to Resolve
Total spending nearly identical, but priorities differ
House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) with House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis). (WIBC.com file photo: Ray Steele)
The House and Senate budgets' total spending levels differ by just .2%. But the House's top budget writer says there will be plenty of issues to resolve in the final three weeks of the session.
Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) says he's concerned too much of the Senate's version of the $29 billion budget comprises ongoing expenditures that could create problems in the next two-year budget. He says House Republicans want to hold baseline spending at a level one-percent below expected income.
Both the House and Senate budgets wall off big chunks of cash. Brown's budget sets aside $300 million dollars in a reserve account for schools, while Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) sets aside $600 million for potential cost increases arising from the federal health care law. Brown argues that's far too much -- he says there will be higher costs down the road, but the federal government will foot the bill for expanding Medicaid for the first five years.
Brown's noncommittal about the Senate's inclusion of a scaled-down version of Governor Pence's income tax cut, which the House omitted. Brown and Kenley both say their budgets include plenty of other tax relief by cutting the corporate income tax and accelerating the phaseout of the inheritance tax. Brown says House Republicans will give the income tax another look after the release of an updated state economic forecast in a couple of weeks.
While school spending is usually the biggest sticking point, the House and Senate both envision a 3% increase. But Brown says there are still differences on some details, including the size of a bonus pool for schools which excel academically.