Jeanie Lindsay and Brandon Smith
Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate reached a final agreement Tuesday on what will likely be the state’s next two-year budget.
Gov. Eric Holcomb joined caucus leaders and members from some education groups to announce the budget agreement.
The plan will boost school funding by 2.5 percent each year through 2021 – more than either chamber initially proposed. But those increases fall short of a 3 percent boost teachers’ unions and the Indiana Department of Education advocated for, specifically to address teacher pay.
Holcomb says they’re still talking to educators about compensation to come up with a long-term solution.
“And those have been productive meetings, and I suspect will continue to be so by the time we’re here again at the next budget gathering we’ll have more to offer,” Holcomb says.
No teachers or union representatives were present at Tuesday’s budget announcement.
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says members from groups that were present – like Indiana School Business Officials and the School Board’s Association – set aggressive, but attainable goals.
“Well this group actually set reasonable goals for us, they put them in writing and said if you can reach these 10 goals we will stand with you,” Bosma says.
Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Odgen Dunes) issued a statement criticizing the budget agreement shortly after the announcement, and said the deal “neglects teachers.”
“We had a comprehensive proposal that would guarantee a salary increase for teachers, and the Republican supermajority once again neglected an opportunity to pay our teachers what they deserve,” Tallian said. “This entire session was an optical illusion played out by the supermajority, and Hoosiers should be outraged by this betrayal of public trust.”
Indiana’s Department of Child Services won’t get as much money as it initially wanted in the new two-year state budget.
DCS asked lawmakers for $286 million more per year than it got in the last budget. That matched one-time funds shifted to the agency over the last year to deal with a significant influx of children in the welfare system.
Bosma says there’s been significant progress at the agency.
“We don’t know that it’s permanent but there’s been a 17 percent reduction in placement, 17, 18 percent reduction in virtually every category that was shared with us by the administration,” Bosma says.
The new state budget will boost DCS funding by $256 million in the first year, $246 million in the second.
Lawmakers also insist the governor can use the state’s budget reserves if the child welfare agency needs another emergency influx of funds.
Both chambers plan to approve the budget Wednesday.