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2021 session recesses after passage of state budget with overwhelmingly bipartisan support

A new Indiana state budget passed both the House and Senate with overwhelmingly bipartisan support Thursday, prompting legislators to end the session praising one another and cheering like kids on the last day of school as they walked out of their chambers for the last time this spring.

“It benefits every community across all of Indiana,” said House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, of House Bill 1001. “Now we grow. Now we invest. This is our time.”

The $37.4 billion budget, ordinarily passed along party lines, instead saw support from both the supermajority Republicans and Democrats, with just five no votes—two Republicans in the House, three Democrats in the Senate.

“Each budget year, I approach this mic, usually with discouragement and dissatisfaction with our investment in minority communities and public health. This year is different,” said Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. “I am commending Indiana’s budget for making serious investments in our Hoosier communities.”

The budget—roughly half of which goes to K-12 education—won praise from the Indiana State Teachers Association and other education groups. Over the next two years, it invests in teacher pay and funding for learning loss programs as well as broadband statewide, grants for mental healthcare, tuition support, support for food banks,  paying off debt and pension support.

“That is basic fiscal responsibility, and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of that step,” said President Pro Tem Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville.

The three Senate Democrats who opposed the budget said it gives too much to the state’s private school voucher program.

Though he voted in favor of the budget, Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said more could have been done for those who had to keep working during quarantine.

“Essential workers, we didn’t do anything for them from my perspective,” Porter said. “Those of us who were at home on the computer—they were in areas cleaning tables and cleaning beds.”

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (above), D-Indianapolis, said legislators shouldn’t “pat themselves on the back” for giving public schools what they need.

“I’m not going to rest because we could do more,” said Taylor, one of the Senate Democrats voting against.

Thursday’s temporary adjournment—a departure from previous adjournments’ “Sine Die,” or without a set date for resumption—is the result of the General Assembly’s plan to resume later this year to act on the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts, a process sure to be fraught with partisan conflict.

But on Thursday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle celebrated the bipartisan work it took to pass a budget almost unanimously.

“Indiana will be in an even stronger position with this new budget, which prioritizes investing in Hoosiers,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement. “Indiana will remain on a roll thanks to the teamwork of all those involved throughout this legislative session.”

Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.