State Senate Starts Work on Budget

(Photo supplied/Indiana Senate)

(INDIANAPOLIS) – It’s the Senate’s turn to start putting together a state budget. A Senate committee has kicked off budget discussions.

The Senate Appropriations Committee kicked off the first of six budget hearings over 10 days with the formal presentation of House Republicans’ version. House Ways and Means Co-Chairman Todd Huston (R-Fishers) boasts the budget spends less than it takes in, leaving the state with a nearly two-billion-dollar reserve. He says that should preserve the state’s triple-A credit rating, which he says reduces borrowing costs for city and county governments as well as for the state.

The proposal increases school funding by a little more than two-percent a year. It also pays off local schools’ unfunded pension liabiility to free up additional money for teacher pay. Huston says that brings the total increase for schools to about three-percent.

Senators asked few questions, but they’re expected to make changes before voting on the plan sometime in the next five weeks.

Both the House and Senate have new lead negotiators on the budget this year, after three straight spending plans written by Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) and House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville). Brown is still co-chair, but Huston is taking the lead on the budget while Brown continues his recovery from a motorcycle crash last fall. Bremen Republican Ryan Mishler, Kenley’s successor as Appropriations chairman, notes it’s unusual to have “a couple of rookies” in charge of budget talks, but says he and Huston both had “good mentors.”