Indiana Dems criticize GOP legislative agenda

A Republican legislative agenda that calls for more money for education is a smokescreen to shield the GOP from past failings, Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody said Wednesday.

He said Republicans are simply trying to convince Hoosiers they are “prioritizing critical issues for Indiana.”

“The truth is, it’s not an agenda at all – it’s a homework make-up list that Republican leadership in the Statehouse should have been working on all along,” Zody said. “The fact of the matter is the speaker is simply trying to veil the fact that Republicans know they need to fix what they broke in the first place – education, ethics, and domestic violence” policy.

House Democrats have not released a caucus agenda.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, presented a legislative priority list Tuesday that calls boosting money to public schools and reducing the gap between the state’s highest and lowest funded districts. Bosma said he wants to increase education funding by more than the GOP did in the current, two-year budget, which boosted spending by 2 percent in the first year and another 1 percent this year.

The increases follow years of belt-tightening to help the state stay out of debt during the Great Recession.  

“This is another way of saying we want more dollars following the child,” Bosma said on Tuesday.

Republicans also proposed a tax credit for teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms.

Zody called the education plan “incredibly ironic and hypocritical.” He said the move will only make up for education budget reductions made by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who enacted a number of frugality measures to help the state balance the budget during the poor economy. And Zody pointed out that Bosma and other House Republicans did nothing to stop current Gov. Mike Pence from using money to create a new education agency he calls “wasteful.”

In addition, Zody says all of the public policy ideas Bosma wants to address – including education increases and domestic violence prevention – are issues House Democrats have focused on for years.

“Democrats have been proposing ideas and legislation that would make Indiana a better place for women, but they fell mostly on deaf ears,” he said. Zody says House Republicans’ focus on domestic violence issues in the state are just a way for them to appear “sympathetic” to victims of domestic violence.

But earmarking more money to domestic violence programs isn’t new for House Republicans. They included nearly $2 million more for those programs during the current budget, although the Pence administration is only now distributing much of that cash.

The GOP agenda includes a focus on reducing the infant mortality rate and the number of police officers killed on duty. But, no specific proposals were given to address either issue. The priority list also calls for tightening the state’s ethics laws to ensure that legislators don’t act on bills that benefit them personally.

Zody pointed out that items not on the list include job creation, expansion of universal pre-kindergarten, and help for the middle class – issues Zody believes are important to Hoosiers.

“The House Republican’s message is not authentic, Zody said. “Three weeks before an election is too late for Speaker Bosma and the legislative supermajorities to try to understand what issues are important to Hoosiers.”

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