State lawmakers engaged in a marathon sprint to the finish Thursday night into early Friday morning in order to get a final two-year budget to Governor Holcomb’s desk.
With just a few hours to spare in the legislative session, state lawmakers passed the budget, 70-27 in the Indiana House and 39-10 in the State Senate, mostly along party lines.
“The budget that was just passed and the budget that I will gladly sign is not just your average, ordinary, typical, two-year budget,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb at around 3:00 a.m. “It is a generational impact budget.”
As advertised, the budget includes a massive boost to education funding. In fact, at the last minute, lawmakers added even more education funding to the budget pushing the total investment to around $1.5 billion. That is over half of the overall budget.
That investment includes a whopping expansion of the state’s school voucher program to help families send their kids to private schools if they wish. Democrats say that provision takes money away from public schools.
“Families that make $220,000 a year, do you think they really need help from us to go to private school,” asked State Rep. Greg Taylor. “What does that say about what we are doing? I’m just flabbergasted that we continue to go down this path.”
$160 million of that education funding also helps parents pay for their student’s textbooks.
The budget also brings forth around $225 million in healthcare funding. That is not as much as the $350 million initially proposed by Gov. Holcomb.
Gas taxes will keep going up under the new budget. The annual 1-cent gas tax increase set to expire in 2024 was extended three more years to 2027. Right now that particular gas tax sits at 33-cents for every gallon you buy.
Additionally, at the last minute, lawmakers added provisions to give themselves raises. This includes increasing the governor’s salary by 50-percent to nearly $200,00 a year. However, there are raises for Indiana state troopers in the budget as well.
Democrats, like State Rep. Ed Delaney, found the pay raises troubling given that it was not given any debate throughout the legislative session.