IN Brief

Lawmakers wade into state budget discussion

By: - February 10, 2023 6:00 am

The Senate released its budget plan Thursday, spending $43.3 billion over two years and ending the biennium with $3.2 billion in reserves. (Getty Images)

Lawmakers got a taste of ongoing state budget discussions Thursday, with a five-hour committee hearing highlighting the state’s shortfall on mental health and home health services as well as its investment in K-12 education. 

It was the first public testimony on House Bill 1001, which contains the two-year budget. It currently is Gov. Eric Holcomb’s proposal but House Republicans will unveil their own plan next week.

Terry Spradlin, the executive director of Indiana School Boards Association, praised the 6% increase in tuition support in 2024, saying it matched the requested state budget increase from his organization. However, the 2% increase for 2025 would fall short, Spradlin said, and 4% would be a better option.

“We do want to thank the Indiana General Assembly for the last two budgets,” Spradlin said. “The money you have provided has helped us general pay raises for teachers.”

The previous budgets have invested record-breaking funding into education, which accounts for slightly more than half of the state’s entire budget. 

GOP budget leaders Rep. Jeff Thompson, left, and Sen. Ryan Mishler recap the revenue and economic forecasts in advance of the 2023 legislative session. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

The 2021 budget included $18.7 billion for education over two years. Spradlin said that funding allowed all but three of the state’s school corporations to pay their teachers a minimum salary of $40,000, edging closer to the governor’s goal of a $60,000 statewide average. 

One shortfall identified in testimony was the lack of home- and community-based services available for Hoosiers, especially those not utilizing Medicaid. 

Kristen LaEace, with chief executive director for the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging, urged the state to stop diverting funds from the CHOICE Program back to Medicaid waivers. 

“(CHOICE) helps people stay in their own homes for longer and with dignity,” LaEace said. 

CHOICE also works preventatively to help moderately disabled Hoosiers with smaller tasks, such as installing grab bars. 

Testimony from several home- and community-based services urged the General Assembly to increase the line item for these services, especially considering the age of Hoosiers. Baby Boomers, the largest portion of any state’s population, will all hit retirement age in the near future and require more services and more intensive care – both of which are shortages in Indiana.

Other topics included public defender funding, animal shelter needs and public health.


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.