Lawmakers pass budget with investments in education, entrepreneurism

April 22, 2017

The Indiana General Assembly ended its 2017 session early Saturday morning after sending Gov. Eric Holcomb a $32.3 billion, two-year budget with $65 million per year in programs meant to boost entrepreneurism.

The spending plan increases funding for education and pre-K but doesn't include a proposed $1 per pack cigarette tax increase that House Republicans had favored because it would free money for road funding. Senate leaders never bought into the idea.

The Indiana House passed the budget 68-30 before midnight. And the Indiana Senate voted 42-8 to pass the same bill after midnight.

Budget writers gave Holcomb half the money he requested—$50 million per year—to be invested by a venture capital firm that will be hired by the state to focus on Indiana companies. The money will come from the state's Next Generation Trust Fund, which was originally funded by former Gov. Mitch Daniels' lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

The budget also gives the Indiana Economic Development Corp. $15 million per year in a “business promotion and innovation program” to to be used to encourage regional development initiatives, incentivize direct flights, and otherwise advance entrepreneurship. Holcomb had requested specific line items for the regional cities program and to incentivize direct flights.

The budget boosts K-12 education funding by $345 million over the next two years, an increase of about 3.3 percent.

Funding for the pre-kindergarten education program will more than double annually—to $22 million. And the budget continues teacher performance grants, now dubbed teacher appreciation grants, at $30 million annually.

The bill appropriates $5 million for the governor’s office for substance abuse prevention, treatment and enforcement.

It also funds raises for Indiana State Police officers and other officers of 10 percent in 2018 and 14 percent in 2019.

The bill leaves the state with a $1.98 billion surplus at the end of 2019.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said his caucus “accomplished all of our goals” during the Legislative session and praised the investments in education.

“Fiscal responsibility was the cornerstone of our legislative agenda as we supported commonsense, pro-growth policies that will fuel our state’s top-ranked economic engine,” Bosma said.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said “any positives [of the session] were bookended by special interests and social issue division.” But he praised the funding for the South Shore rail line that was included in the bill. It connects northwest Indiana suburbs with Chicago.

“Could we have done more? Of course, but I cannot fault a session that acknowledges the need to improve our infrastructure, and endorses a South Shore improvement project that makes a substantial commitment toward the economic growth of a section of our state—northwest Indiana—that has long been neglected in Indianapolis,” Pelath said.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, told Senate President Pro Tempore David Long that “I didn’t vote for your budget but it’s still a heck of a great budget.”

Long praised the budget for prioritizing “education, public safety, and fighting illegal drug abuse.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb praised the passage of the budget in a statement.

“The budget funds key provisions in our Next Level agenda, including increased direct flights at Hoosier airports, funds to encourage and nurture entrepreneurship, and continued support for regional economic development efforts,” Holcomb said. “It also ensures we take strong steps to develop a skilled and ready workforce by investing in pre-kindergarten and credentials in high-need industries for working adults.”


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