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Indiana lawmakers pass $44.5B budget in late night session



Indianapolis, Indiana – To finally pass a budget before their annual session ended, Indiana lawmakers toiled through the night and into early Friday morning.

After some lawmakers voiced concerns about public school funding, the overnight session became necessary. To remedy this, legislative leaders decided to increase the education budget by $300 million. That sum will be derived from the funds allocated during the first budget conference to reduce the unfunded liability for a teachers’ pension plan.

The plan was approved by the House by a vote of 70–27 just after 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. Less than an hour later, the Senate adopted the same strategy and sent it to Governor Eric Holcomb with a vote of 39-10.

Even though it was late, opponents of the two-year, $44.5 billion spending proposal spoke on the Senate floor against it and the modest raises some school districts will receive.

“When inflation is at 4.8%, how do we dare, in year two of traditional public school funding, say it’s a great thing to increase their funding by 1.3%? How dare we,” Minority Caucus Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said.

The final budget agreement included a one-time $700 million investment for the Pre-1996 Teachers’ Retirement Fund shortfall of less than the $1 billion that lawmakers had originally planned to pay.

Teachers who began their careers more than 25 years ago have their pensions covered by that pay-as-you-go fund. The pre-1996 program had an $8.8 billion unfunded obligation, according to the Indiana Public Retirement System’s 2022 annual report, which was anticipated to be settled by the 2030 fiscal year.

The extension of the voucher program was one budget item that did not change. Families might participate in the budget if their income is up to 400% of the free or reduced lunch criterion.

Thanks to the measures lawmakers included in the budget, 97% of the state’s students can now be served by a school choice program, claims EdChoice.

“With the passage of this budget, Indiana essentially achieved universal choice, and it is now the most educational choice-friendly state in the county,” stated Betsy Wiley, president, and CEO of the Institute for Quality Education.

According to a statement from Holcomb, the budget will allow districts to increase the average teacher wage to $60,000 on a state-wide basis. For more than a million children in public and charter schools, it will also remove textbook and curriculum costs.

Both issues were on his legislative to-do list for this year.

“We balanced our 10th straight budget, which enables us to strategically prioritize key areas in health, education, and workforce that will elevate Indiana to the next level,” Holcomb said. “I’m proud of what was accomplished this legislative session, and through collaboration and hard work, we will be able to make transformational investments that will better the lives of Hoosiers and build a better today and stronger tomorrow.”

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