Legislature Approves Budget, Adjourns Until November
A $29 billion state budget is on its way to Governor Pence's desk as the General Assembly ends its 2013 session.
The House and Senate adjourned shortly after 1 a.m., after approving a spending plan which increases road and school spending while making plans to cut income taxes 5% by 2017.
House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) says the tax cut, coupled with the repeal of the state's inheritance tax, a cut in the financial institutions tax, and the already-scheduled cut in the corporate income tax add up to the largest tax cut in state history. And he boasts the road funding plus $206 million in university building projects will put Hoosiers to work without any state borrowing.
The budget attracted just two Democratic votes in the Senate and one in the House. Democratic leaders complain a 3% increase in school funding still doesn't bring schools back to where they were before their budgets were cut during the recession. Senate budget negotiator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) says half the state's schools will receive less money than in the current budget.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says all schools will receive increased funding per pupil.
Legislators also approved a loan for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for improvements, and tax changes aimed at helping Indiana casinos compete with out-of-state rivals. Legislators declined to allow the state's two racinos to replace electronic versions of blackjack and other table games with live dealers, and also rejected a request from riverboats to move their casino operations inland.
Pence issued a statement applauding legislators for "laying a foundation for renewed prosperity and educational excellence." Legislators passed a package of four education bills Pence had sought, including an expansion of the private-school voucher program.
Both sides claimed victory in the debate over the Common Core curriculum standards as legislators voted to require the State Board of Education to halt implementation, and adopt new standards after a fresh round of public hearings. The Indiana Chamber, which had lobbied to preserve Common Core, notes that the portions already implemented remain in effect, while the law calls on the board to use Common Core as a "base model" for new standards due by next summer.