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Holcomb Budget Boosts School Funding, Tightens Belt Elsewhere

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Schools would get an extra $150 million next year under Governor
Holcomb’s proposed budget, but other agencies would face a year of belt tightening.

The Office of Management and Budget presented Holcomb’s two-year spending plan Wednesday to
House and Senate budget leaders. The proposed budget would boost school funding by 2% the first year, while state spending on everything else would remain flat.

Budget director Zac Jackson says the administration asked state agencies to cut their budget
requests by 15%. Budgeters then went back and backfilled some of those cuts to make sure
critical needs were covered.

The proposal loosens the purse strings a little the second year, with another $77 million increase for schools and a $270 million increase for everything else.

While the baseline budget remains nearly flat, the proposal calls for a billion dollars in one-time
spending, using federal pandemic relief money and savings from emergency spending cuts imposed
last year. Most of that spending will actually take place before the current budget ends, with the
early payoff of $300 million in bonds for the I-69 extension and a handful of building projects. The governor’s office says that will save Indiana $66 million. Holcomb is
also reviving a plan to pay down teachers’ pension liability to free up money for teacher pay.

The new budget calls for $100 million to expand broadband, $50 million to build a new swine
barn at the state fairgrounds, and a $280 million reserve fund for emergency building projects.
The administration also plans to increase a grant fund to help restaurants and other small
businesses stay afloat amid the pandemic.

The Indiana School Boards Administration calls the boost in school funding “promising.” But Gary
Senator Eddie Melton (D) says he’s “deeply disappointed” the proposal doesn’t directly earmark
money for teacher pay raises. Holcomb and Republican legislators have consistently said they want
to encourage, not order, local school boards to steer more money to teachers.

Legislators will use the plan as a starting point for the final budget, which will be passed just before
the enc of the session in late April.

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