Like all budget sessions in the Indiana General Assembly, there are winners and losers. But what sets this year’s now-concluded legislative session apart is that there are more people than ever in the losers’ column — most Hoosiers, in fact.
A year ago, it was the common refrain that we would now be in a recession and had to tighten our belts this legislative session. April’s two-year revenue forecast — the final estimate lawmakers use to finalize budget appropriations for the next two years — showed the opposite, that the state would have $2.1 billion in dollars previously. unexpected to allocate in this year’s budget.
The Republican supermajority said this session will be about historic investments in public health and mental health (including in the context of our justice system). When the additional $2.1 billion was projected, an unwitting observer might have guessed that the money would be fully spent to fund transformative investments in our public health and mental health crisis response systems.
In fact, this money was not allocated to the transformation of these investments in the quality of life. After decades as a state legislator, I’m used to Republican majority budgets being missed opportunities. This year’s budget goes even further. It is a total waste of public money of which legislators should be devoted trustees.
So: what do you think the Republican majority chose to fund instead of programs to improve the minds and health of Hoosiers?
- An unprecedented expansion of school vouchers that allows families earning $220,000 to receive public money for private education, while public schools that educate more than 90% of Hoosier children have received funding increases below the inflation rate.
- $500 million for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to spend on economic development projects, including the speculative acquisition of real estate, which may never materialize into solid, long-term jobs for Hoosiers.
- $700 million in a retirement savings account that we are already paying down at a responsible pace.
- Accelerated income tax cuts that will result in the most savings for Indiana’s wealthiest.
- $800 million in cash for capital improvements to the Westville Jail project, financing that our AAA credit rating could have easily been raised to pay for through bonds.
During his speech on the floor ahead of the final vote on the budget, House Speaker Todd Huston said, “The hardest thing here is that nothing ever gets fully funded. When you ask people what it would take to be fully funded, the answer is always the same: just a little more. »
It seems to me that a lot of the programs were fully funded. They are simply not the ones who are going to help you with your property tax bill. Or expand IndyGo’s services. Or give every Hoosier child a fair chance to succeed with Universal Pre-Kindergarten. Or improve our public health outcomes.
It’s too bad that the only fully funded programs in this budget are the Republican supermajority’s ongoing crusade to shift public funds into private pockets.
This budget is not a victory for Hoosiers. The only impact the majority of Hoosiers will feel is the abandonment of their roads, their public schools and their health care systems, while the favorite projects of the supermajority get more than their fair share of funding. This is unacceptable and a slap in the face to the hardworking Hoosiers who need a helping hand – which is why I chose to vote no on this year’s budget.
Rep. Greg Porter, D-96th District, Indianapolis, is the most senior member of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee. This comment was previously posted on statehousefile.com. Send feedback to [email protected]