House Democrats walk out of state budget hearing-WEB ONLY

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House Democrats walked out of a state
budget hearing today after complaining that the Republican governor
injected politics into the process – and they said they don’t plan to attend
other hearings scheduled before a special legislative session starts
next week.

Democrats on a special joint budget committee
complained that Gov. Mitch Daniels was trying to take credit for giving
public schools a 2-percent funding increase in each of the next two
years, even though the majority of that boost comes from federal
stimulus money.

“This is a sham and this is a gimmick,” said Rep. Terry Goodin (D-Austin).

budget director Chris Ruhl said Daniels and his administration have
made no secret about the sources for the school-funding increase.

Ways and Means Chairman William Crawford (D-Indianapolis) was unhappy
that the Indiana Republican Party and Daniels’ campaign committee sent
out e-mails yesterday urging people to attend today’s meeting and
support the governor’s budget proposal. Crawford said those people had
a right to testify, but he considered the meeting “staged.”

“You can do whatever you want,” he said before leaving the meeting.

Republicans on the committee said Democrats had a duty to stay and listen to public testimony.

have tough work to do in this state,” said Republican Rep. Randy Borror
of Fort Wayne, pounding his fist on the long desk in front of him.
“Let’s get on with this hearing.”

Republicans and some Senate
Democrats stayed in the meeting and continued the hearing, listening to
school superintendents talk about how the budget would affect their

Democrats said they will not attend any more meetings
of the special joint committee but will return for the special session
that begins June 11.

Daniels said Democrats had the right to not
attend the meeting but that the most important thing was eventually
reaching an agreement on a new state budget before the current one
expires at the end of June.

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