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Senate Budget Boosts School Funding, Trims DCS Increase

Mishler says he's apprehensive about possible belt-tightening after new revenue forecast next week

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Senate Republicans have unveiled their version of the state budget, but it's likely to be rewritten soon after it's approved.

The Senate will vote on the budget Tuesday. The next day, financial analysts release an updated economic forecast. Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) says he's expecting that report to be weaker, with the final budget to be adjusted accordingly. His plan leaves two-point-two-billion dollars in the state surplus as a hedge against that forecast, $300 million more than the House version.

The Senate version pumps up school funding by $160 million more than the House proposed in the first year of the two-year budget -- that's an extra half-percent increase. It trims Governor Holcomb's request for a big boost in Department Child Services funding, but lets him tap an emergency fund if the department can't get by on the smaller amount. Legislators created that fund as part of the 2017 road-funding package, to ensure the diversion of gasoline sales taxes to roads didn't jeopardize the rest of the budget. Mishler says declining caseloads the last few months at DCS create optimism the agency won't need as much money as expected.

The budget preserves insurance protections for Hoosiers with preexisting conditions, regardless of what happens to the federal health care law.

House and Senate negotiators will have about two weeks to agree on a final version of the budget after the forecast is released.

(Photo by Lenzjona/Thinkstock.)

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