Indiana House Republican have a new budget architect, 12-term representative Jeff Thompson.
Speaker Todd Huston recently appointed Thompson as chair of the House’s most influential committee, Ways and Means.
Every bill with a significant financial impact must go through the Ways and Means committee. And the state budget starts there.
More than 50 percent of that budget is education, which comes in handy for Thompson. He was a teacher for 30 years and led his caucus’ efforts in recent years to rewrite the state’s school funding formula.
Thompson can’t necessarily focus on further changes to the formula now that he’s the House GOP’s main budget writer, said Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics Director Emeritus Andrew Downs.
“But his awareness of the issues is certainly going to be beneficial,” he said.
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Often, when a new leader takes over one of the two budget-writing committees, House Ways and Means and Senate Appropriations, there's a shift in power towards the other chamber and its more veteran committee chair.
Downs said that will likely happen in the upcoming session, even if Thompson's experience might negate some of that power imbalance.
"So, you do get the Senate and the House going at it," Downs said. "And the Senate, rightly, is now going to say 'No, the way this goes is deference now comes to us because we have the senior member, in terms of a chair."
Still, Downs noted that the average Hoosier likely won’t notice a difference in the budget process under Thompson.
“The governor will still chime in. The Senate will chime in," Downs said. "Members of the House caucus will chime in. It’s hard to imagine how there will be significant shifts.”
Thompson replaces Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), who is retiring.