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[r29] Column: House budget prioritizes education
Start Date: 2/25/2013Start Time: 12:00 PM
End Date: 2/25/2013End Time: 1:59 PM
Entry Description
House budget prioritizes education

The main story this week in the Legislature was the budget proposed by Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) and the House Ways and Means Committee. This $30 billion financial blueprint for Indiana is essentially a list of funding priorities to make Indiana the most hospitable place to live. There are many aspects of the budget, but the main topics for discussion are restoration of education funding and infrastructure improvements. 
 
In the House proposed budget, K-12 funding will be increased to the largest appropriation in Indiana history. Education has been near and dear to many legislators’ hearts, and this budget puts further a substantial investment in Indiana’s future leaders. Cuts are restored that were made in 2009 and adds a substantial amount to account for full-day kindergarten. There is also an appropriation of $7 million for a pre-school education pilot program to serve low-income students. Education is the top priority for this budget, accounting for over half of all funding, and will remain important until the end of negotiations in April.
 
As I listen to constituents and local officials, whether at a town hall or at the grocery store, one of the strident messages heard is that more funding is needed for highway maintenance and construction projects. Motor vehicle highway funds have been declining over the past five years due to more fuel efficient cars (which reduces the money collected on the gas tax), but expenses to maintain our roads and bridges have increased. A long-time improvement in the funding proposal has been adopted in the House budget by removing the State Police and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles from the gas tax to the General Fund, amounting to an additional $140 million for highway funding.  
 
A percentage of the sales tax on gas has also been dedicated to highway funding. The total amount redirected to the Motor Vehicle Highway Fund is $250 million per year. All Hoosiers will benefit from these adjustments without paying more at the pump, and state and local officials will benefit without burdening taxpayers; a win-win.
 
Our commitment to enacting a budget every two years that is fiscally sound and honestly balanced has positioned Indiana to have the prudent reserves needed to weather a future economic downturn. Even with the additional spending to priorities like infrastructure, education and public safety, the House’s budget allocates $300 million to the Tuition Reserve Fund. This fund serves as a safety net for funding our education priorities in case of a slowdown.
 
Debt will be paid down to defease bonds for the Indiana State Museum and the Forensic Sciences Laboratory, and a structural surplus will be in place for each year of the biennium. A government that lives within its means best serves its people. This budget does that.

In looking ahead to February 25, the budget will be voted on and sent to the Senate for further review.  It will be finalized at the end of April when legislators are presented with an updated revenue forecast.

Monday will also conclude the first part of the session with Senate bills coming over to the House and vice versa. Time has flown by, but I think we are on our way to having a very productive session. I look forward to next week and reporting on many of the bills that have passed the House.

-30-
Contact Information:
Name: Nicholas Goodwin
Phone: 3172329831
Email: ngoodwin@iga.in.gov
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    House of Representatives Republican Caucus

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