Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state’s new, $37 billion state budget will be “transformational” for Indiana’s future.
The final budget proposal unveiled Tuesday uses a combination of state tax revenues and money from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.
The state spending plan will put $500 million into Holcomb’s new regional economic recovery program, dubbed READI.
Comparing READI to its predecessor (then-Gov. Mike Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative), Holcomb said it could generate $5 billion in investment through private sector and non-profit involvement.
“Obviously that’s going to go a long way in making sure communities aren’t just surviving but we’re thriving," Holcomb said. "And we’re attracting talent and maintaining the talent that we’re grooming.”
Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said the state will also eliminate more than $1 billion in state debt, freeing up some money for future budgets.
“Our conservative spending levels will also provide opportunities for future tax cuts and other reforms," Huston said. "And we look forward to having those discussions over the next year or two.”
Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said the final budget proposal unveiled by Republicans Tuesday is the best budget he’s seen in his decade-plus at the Statehouse.
But he and his caucus still lament what they call missed opportunities and misplaced priorities.
The new budget spends $500 million to get the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund to pre-pandemic levels, ensuring business owners don’t have to pay a little more in unemployment taxes. But Taylor said it won't help Hoosiers who got unemployment benefits last year by making sure they don’t have to pay state income tax on those benefits.
“To me, it just says that it’s not about the people, it’s about the businesses,” Taylor said.
Taylor emphasized that many of the investments Indiana will make in its new state budget are only possible because of the money from President Joe Biden’s federal COVID-19 relief package.
Other major spending plans in the new state budget, using both state and federal funding:
- $250 million for expanded broadband access
- $60 million for a small business support program, aimed particularly at the hospitality industry
- $100 million more for mental health initiatives and ensuring existing programs don't get cut
- $80 million to increase pay to $15/hour for direct service providers, those who help Hoosiers with intellectual and development disabilities
- $160 million for water infrastructure
- $550 million into a reserve account for state building projects, which could include a new State Archives Building, a combined School for the Deaf and the Blind and Visually Impaired, state park inns, cybersecurity infrastructure and a new Indiana State Police post and lab in Evansville
- $900 million into a new reserve fund for future infrastructure projects
Leaders from both parties note that many of the dollars are directed into a reserve accounts because the state hasn't received guidance from the federal government on how Indiana is allowed to spend half of the $3 billion it's getting from the latest COVID-19 relief package.
Contact reporter Brandon at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.