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Lawmakers expect lean session

– Higher-education leaders in Indiana got an early taste Thursday of what will likely be a tough predicament for anyone relying on state aid when lawmakers return in January to write the budget.

Vincennes University President Dick Helton asked members of the State Budget Committee for $8 million to run a vocational training program but was met with skepticism.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who will lead the budget drafting next year, said state tax collections are unlikely to improve much next year, and the strain on the budget could be great.

“There’s sort of an element, or a sense that people have waited long enough and there are some things that they think it’s time we have to do this or it’s time we have to do that,” Kenley said. “There is going to be an enormous amount of competition for whatever funds are out there.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence and the General Assembly will head into the 2013 session with roughly $2 billion in cash reserves.

Pence campaigned on a proposal to cut the state’s personal income tax by 10 percent and maintain the state’s cash reserves at an amount equal to 12.5 percent of state spending. But House leaders have urged caution, noting that the legislature already has cut the corporate income tax and is phasing out the inheritance tax.

Kenley said lawmakers will have little new spending or funding to work with.