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Saturday, April 22, 2017 12:50 am

Education gets boost as state budget passes

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

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Here are some details on the budget:

• Ends with a projected surplus of $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2019 after spending $32.3 billion

• Adds $22 million for prekindergarten program

• Spends $345 million in new money for K-12 over the two years – 1.6 percent increase in 2018 and 1.7 percent in 2019

• Funds incentive grants for school consolidation at $5 million

• Retains but reduces amount for teacher appreciation grants at $30 million annually

• Increases higher education funding 1.25 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019 – a total of $38 million

• Creates $30 million fund over two years for governor to spend on economic development programs

• Appropriates $1 million to the Maumee River Basin Commission for capital requests, with local match required

• Increases Department of Child Services funding by $200 million over two years

• Gives governor's office $5 million for a new drug czar and related programming

• Increases salaries for Indiana State Police by 10 percent the first year and 14 percent the second year

• Increases cap for scholarship-granting organizations' tax credit to $12.5 million the first year and $14 million the second year

 

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers passed a $32.3 billion two-year budget after midnight Friday that also included some 11th hour surprises.

The House passed the bill 68-30 and Senate passed it 42-8.

Indiana's fledgling prekindergarten pilot will see a significant boost in funding with $22 million a year.

And IPFW will get millions in new funding following a quasi-split of the campus.

But the document contained more than numbers – it had some last-minute language that had never been vetted by the General Assembly.

Specifically, the legislation allows the Indiana Department of Correction to buy lethal injection drugs used in executions from a confidential supplier. And legislators unilaterally blocked a proposed annexation of 10,000 acres in Bloomington.

House Speaker Brian Bosma blew off concerns, saying it's not unusual for new language to be added to the budget.

But Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton called the action an “outrageous intrusion into our local democracy.”

“This Bloomington-specific language was not in a piece of municipal legislation but was apparently slipped in the budget bill at the last hour in the dark of night by a limited number of powerful insiders. There were no public hearings, no public comments, and not a single communication from anyone at the State House initiating or drafting this language to anyone at the City of Bloomington.”

When pressed about the annexation language issue – in which the city followed state law on annexation set by lawmakers – Bosma said “It's not my language. It's not my bill.”

Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said a major employer in the area – Cook Group – owned land in the proposed annexation and was unaware there were annexation waivers attached to the land. So Cook sought a break in the process to negotiate.

Many of the final decisions in the document revolve around education.

On My Way Pre-K will receive $22 million annually in funding – with $1 million each year going to an online, in-home early education program. Current funding is $10 million a year.

The K-12 school funding formula would give schools an average increase of 1.6 percent the first year and 1.7 percent increase the second year – about $345 million in new funding.

It impacts schools differently based on projected enrollment growth or loss.

For instance, Fort Wayne Community Schools is projected to lose students and its funding levels remain virtually static. But Northwest Allen County Schools would see a 5.5 percent increase in the first year and 3.5 percent the second year.

Southwest Allen County Schools would go up 2.5 percent and 1.4 percent. East Allen County Schools would increase 1.6 percent the first year and stay essentially the same in the second year. The deal includes language giving incentive grants to schools that voluntarily consolidate and retains a teacher appreciation bonus program, but at a reduced level of $30 million. It previously was $40 million.

Higher education funding would rise 1.25 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019.

IPFW came out strong in the budget. It provides increased funding to Purdue University for its part of the campus and creates a new $4.85 million appropriation for IU's new health sciences program. An additional $1 million was added late for IPFW's School of Music. Some deferred maintenance dollars also were given.

Overall, the campus's funding grew from $83.1 million in the last budget to $90.6 million in this budget despite enrollment staying steady.

Gov. Eric Holcomb received a number of his requests as well.

Lawmakers created a promotion and innovation fund for Holcomb to prioritize some of his agenda items. The $15 million annual appropriation could be used for regional development; incentives for direct flights or to establish a new port.

Holcomb did not get a full exemption for military pension income that he had sought, costing $15 million in the biennium. Instead, the budget made a modest change of raising the cap on the pension income tax exemption from $5,000 to $6,250.

Bosma said that item didn't go as far as he wanted but “you can't always get what you want.”

nkelly@jg.net