Schools to receive $150 million as part of Gov. Holcomb’s proposed budget

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(Photo supplied/Michigan News Service)

Schools would get an extra $150-million next year under Governor Holcomb’s proposed budget, but other agencies would face a year of belt tightening.

The Office of Management and Budget presented Holcomb’s two-year spending plan Wednesday to House and Senate budget leaders. The proposed budget would boost school funding by 150-million dollars — that’s a two-percent increase. But state spending on everything else would remain flat.

Budget director Zac Jackson says the administration asked state agencies to cut their budget requests by 15-percent. Budgeters then went back and backfilled some of those cuts to make sure critical needs were covered.

The proposal loosens the purse strings a little the second year, with another 77-million for schools and a 270-million-dollar increase for everything else.

While the baseline budget remains nearly flat, the proposal calls for a billion dollars in one-time spending, using federal pandemic relief money and savings from emergency spending cuts imposed last year. Most of that spending will actually take place before the current budget ends, with the early payoff of 300-million dollars in bonds for the I-69 extension and a handful of construction projects. The governor’s office says that will save Indiana 66-million dollars in interest. Holcomb is also reviving a plan to pay down teachers’ pension liability to free up money for teacher pay.

The new budget calls for 100-million dollars to expand broadband, 50-million to build a new swine barn at the state fairgrounds, and a 280-million-dollar reserve fund for emergency building projects. The administration also plans to increase a grant fund to help restaurants and other small businesses stay afloat amid the pandemic.

The Indiana School Boards Administration calls the boost in school funding “promising.” But Gary Senator Eddie Melton (D) says he’s “deeply disappointed” the proposal doesn’t directly earmark money for teacher pay raises. Holcomb and Republican legislators have consistently said they want to encourage, not order, local school boards to steer more money to teachers.

Legislators will use the plan as a starting point for the final budget, which will be passed just before the enc of the session in late April.

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