Indiana Senate leaders Thursday rolled out their version of the state budget, and there are some differences from their House GOP colleagues in a number of key areas:
In total, higher education spending makes up 12-percent of the Senate’s proposed two-year, $31.5 billion budget.
That’s considerably more than what the House suggested.
Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) acknowledges the increase and says it would move state universities in the right direction.
"It’s premised on the fact that they want the universities to have no tuition increases, we hope that they will agree with us," Kenley says. "We hope that we will have a good enough revenue forecast that we can sustain that higher ed support."
Kenley’s committee would appropriate $76 million to increase student financial aid, as well as a one-time outlay of $25 million for repair and maintenance at all regional campuses of state universities.
The Senate GOP budget appropriates $56 million in new spending for community correction programs at the local level. The House GOP budget had set aside $80 million in new funding.
But Kenley says, after consulting with community corrections officials, probation officers and the Department of Correction, he believes $56 million will fully fund local needs. And with $30 million more for mental health and addiction treatment, Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) says that’s one part of the budget Democrats can support.
“We’re very happy to see the financial commitment to the community corrections and mental health and addition programs,” Tallian says.
The Senate budget does not include any new money for the Department of Correction, despite what the agency says is a need to expand state prisons. Kenley says he’s not convinced.
“Historically, there’ve been a number of times that the DOC over the last 20 years since I’ve been here has asked for new beds and it hasn’t turned out that they’ve actually needed them,” he says.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE WAKE OF RFRA
Outrage over the kerfuffle surrounding Indiana's so-called "religious freedom" bill prompted threats of boycotts against the state and caused some companies and conventions to reconsider their ties to Indiana. Kenley says passing the follow-up bill to clarify the original religious freedom law was an important step.
And to help restore Indiana’s image, Kenley says he’s increased tourism funding by $1 million a year in the Senate’s version of the budget. He’s also putting state money into a program called “Launch Indiana.” The initiative, which exists in a few locations around the state, provides young entrepreneurs with resources aimed at helping them launch a business.
“And this Launch Indiana shows a facilitative way that the state, Ball State University, and the Lieutenant Governor’s office, working with these areas where they have these things established, are trying to make that concept available to these people,” Kenley says.