State Budget Bill Moves To Senate On Party-Line Vote
February 25, 2015 –Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports.
INDIANAPOLIS – The House passed a $31.5 billion, two-year budget Tuesday that boosts funding for K-12 education and spends more on domestic violence programs, community corrections, tourism and mass transit.
The bill passed 68-29 largely on party lines, with minority Democrats complaining that the plan cuts funding to urban and rural districts in favor of more money for suburban districts, charters and private schools.
But Republicans say that’s because suburban schools are growing. Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said overall school funding will be higher than its ever been – up 4.7 percent over two years. Districts that are losing money are also losing students, he said. And those districts are typically ones that have received more dollars per-student in the past.
Still, Brown said, the budget is structured to ensure that all students do better.
“I think we can go home and say we are helping all 1.06 million children in Indiana,” Brown said.
But Rep. Greg Porter, the ranking Democrat on the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee, said Indianapolis Public Schools will lose millions of dollars under the proposal. He said that’s ironic given that students from the district were visiting the Statehouse and watching the vote.
“They’re going to see history,” Porter said. “They’re going to see the Indiana General Assembly passing a bill to devastate their schools.”
But he said it’s not just urban schools that will be hurt. He listed off a number of other districts – Eastern Greene, Madison-Grant, Bloomfield, Cloverdale, Clarksville, South Putnam, Shakamak – that will receive fewer base dollars under the bill.
“They’re going to lose dollars also,” Porter said.
Although funding for schools has dominated the budget debate, the bill also includes $400 million – on top of existing gas tax revenues and federal funds – to pay for road construction. It also doubles funding for domestic violence programs to $5 million a year and funds rape crisis programs for the first time.
The budget also includes first-time funding for 211, a referral service for Hoosiers who need help. And there’s $80 million over two years for community-based programs for low-level felons.
The bill now moves to the Senate where it’s expected to undergo changes.