INDIANAPOLIS – The General Assembly gathered for Organization Day on Tuesday and it was more than just swearing in 150 lawmakers.
One group pushed for an expansion of the state’s pilot pre-kindergarten program by bringing children to the Statehouse and handing out lunches and snacks to lawmakers.
Another delivered 5,500 petitions to Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb seeking discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers.
The Indiana House and Senate also announced an annual charity project to build a Habitat for Humanity home – some of it even on the lawn of the Statehouse.
It was just a glimpse of what the 2107 session will bring, starting with crafting a two-year state budget that spends billions.
Both Republican legislative leaders – House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – sounded a soft fiscal alarm.
"If current trends hold true it’s going to be a tough budget," Bosma said. "We are going to have to prioritize."
Lawmakers will receive a revenue forecast in December that charts what new tax growth legislators can expect over the next two years.
The state has not been meeting the targets set for the current budget ending in June. Revenues have come in about $109 million, or 2 percent, less than expected.
Long said there is some concern that the December report won’t be good, especially in the area of sales taxes. He noted online sales are part of the problem.
"Maybe we’ll have to tighten our belts slightly," he said.
The biggest expenditure in the budget is K-12 education, about $7.2 billion annually.
"We have to do a better job of allocating those funds," Bosma said.