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Budget bill passes House amid debate over education priorities

A Republican-authored proposal for a two-year, $36 million state budget is on its way to the Indiana Senate.

House Bill 1001, authored by House Ways and Means Chairman Timothy Brown (above), R-Crawfordsville, passed the House Monday evening in a  65-30 vote.

“Let us have a vision of employing Hoosiers and giving credit to businesses and helping businesses getting out of this recession going forward,” Brown said in presenting the budget. “That is what we’re going to do.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb has aknowledged some differences from the budget that his administration proposed earlier this year.

“There are places, yes, that we disagree on the budget,” Holcomb said in a news conference last week. “There are places where, quite frankly, the House’s budget invested more than I was recommending.”

The budget bill would increase funding for education by $378 million over the next two years but would not dedicate money specifically to give raises to teachers in public schools. The budget would significantly increase the private school voucher program over the next two years.

Indiana already has one of the biggest voucher programs in the country.

Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, spoke against the increase of funding for the voucher program on Monday.

“We don’t just fund a student, we fund a community,” Hamilton said. “This budget continues the destructive trend of taking more money away from our public community schools and continuing to underfund particular special-education and low-income students as well as the professional educators, the dedicated teachers that support all of our students.”

Democrats also criticized the budget proposal for maintaining a $1.2 billion surplus that they maintained could provided needed assistance to Hoosiers still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Basic human needs that we need to meet, and this budget just isn’t there,” said Rep. Gregory Porter, D-Indianapolis. “We can do a lot better.”

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