House GOP Budget Adds School Money, Funds DCS
(INDIANAPOLIS) - House Republicans have made some tweaks to Governor Holcomb's proposed state budget:
Governor Holcomb recommended 2% increases for schools in each year of the two-year budget. House Republicans bump that just slightly, adding $29 million dollars to make the annual increases 2.1 and 2.2%. Ways and Means Co-Chairman Todd Huston (R-Fishers) notes that doesn't include the $150 million in state help with teacher pensions. Taking that burden off local school districts will free up an additional $70 million a year, which Holcomb is urging them to spend on beefing up teacher pay. Huston says adding that money lifts the overall increase past 3%.
The Ways and Means Committee approved the budget on a party-line vote, sending it to the full House for final approval no later than next Tuesday. It'll then move on to the Senate for further changes.
The budget grants Holcomb's request to boost funding for the Department of Child Services by nearly one-third in the first year, bringing it in line with what the department has been spending already through transfers from other areas. Huston says the nearly $300 million cash injection for DCS didn't leave much money for increases elsewhere. Not counting DCS, spending would increase about two-percent a year. The state would finish the two-year budget with $1.9 billion in reserves, 11% of total spending.
The budget adds $5 million a year to the state's school safety grant program, and sets aside $20 million to help cities and counties shore up water infrastructure.
Like Holcomb's budget, House Republicans' plan ends state support for the Hoosier State Amtrak train from Indianapolis to Chicago. Huston echoes the administration's conclusion there aren't enough riders to justify the expense.
And Republicans have added a guarantee of coverage for preexisting conditions for state employees and Hoosiers on the Healthy Indiana Plan.
Holcomb issued a statement saying he's "pleased" that the House plan reflects his priorities while maintaining the state surplus, and says he looks forward to working with the legislature on a final plan.
House Ways and Means Co-Chairman Todd Huston (R-Fishers) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)