Long Optimistic About Quick Budget Agreement
Senate leader says gap on education issues much wider than on budget
Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
Normally, the toughest legislative battle of the session is over the budget. That may not be the case this year.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long boasts the budget passed by his chamber Wednesday is the best he's ever seen at this point in the process. The final version will begin to come into focus with an updated economic forecast on Tuesday, though Long says the predicted trendline will be more important than the exact numbers.
Long says he's concerned about the strength of the economic recovery, but says an optimistic forecast would make it an agreement on cutting taxes more likely.
Both the House and Senate have called for repealing Indiana's inheritance tax with the new year, four years ahead of schedule. But three-way negotiations are looming over whether to cut income taxes as well. The Senate has proposed a 3% cut, while Governor Pence has asked for 10%.
The House and Senate budgets have minor differences in other areas, including road funding and the earmarking of some state reserves. The House wants to set aside $300 million for shortfalls in school funding, while the Senate has proposed walling off $1 billion for Medicaid and big-ticket highway projects. Both proposals would lower the projected state surplus below the threshold that triggers an automatic tax rebate in 2016.
The overall spending levels proposed by the House and Senate are nearly identical.
While the two chambers are relatively close on the budget, Long says debates over school vouchers, the Common Core curriculum, and financial assistance for the motorsports industry could drag on to the session's final days.