Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed off on a plan for spending $291 million in unexpected state tax revenue on college campus construction projects after legislative Republicans rebuffed Democratic attempts to direct at least some of that money toward school funding.
The Republican governor’s office said he signed the bill Wednesday. Holcomb had first proposed in July the plan for using the extra money toward paying cash for several building projects that were part of the two-year state budget adopted in April, rather than borrowing money.
By paying for the projects with cash instead of issuing debt, state officials estimate it could save the state more than $130 million over 20 years.
Holcomb said in a statement that the plan ensures the state remains “remains the fiscal envy of the nation by saving Hoosier taxpayers more than $135 million in borrowing costs.”
Republicans who dominate the Legislature have repeatedly defended the 2.5% per-year increase in school funding included in the current state budget. They say it provides significant progress toward boosting teacher pay and protects the state’s $2.3 billion in cash reserves.
Republicans unanimously rejected a variety of Democratic proposals to increase school funding as the bill was passed in the first three weeks of the 10-week legislative session—and after several thousand teachers joined a boisterous Statehouse rally in November citing stagnant salaries as a top concern.
The measure is the only one to reach Holcomb’s desk so far this session.
The measure, authored by House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown, provides cash funding for the following:
- $73 million for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine teaching hospital;
- $62 million for Indiana University for bicentennial projects;
- $59.9 million for the Ball State University STEM and Health Professions facilities;
- $30 million for the Ivy Tech Columbus main building replacement;
- $18.4 million for renovation of Dreiser Hall at Indiana State University;
- $48 million for the University of Southern Indiana Health Professions classroom renovation, and the rest to pay off some existing debt obligations.