On Monday, Senate Democrats offered eighteen substantial amendments to House Bill (HB) 1001, legislation crafting the state’s next biennial budget. Proposed changes to the measure included investments in the areas of education, infrastructure, and health care.
“Hoosier families know that sound fiscal footing relies on a foundation of good investments,’ said State Senator Karen Tallian. “Our budget recommendations are comprised of strategic contributions our state can make now that pay off in the long-run.”
Sen. Tallian, who serves as Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, continued saying that proposed changes to the budget reflect discussions Hoosier families have around their kitchen tables and endows the state’s resources towards strengthening Indiana’s network of communities.
Improving Hoosiers’ health
Budget proposals offered by Senate Democrats included initiatives to expand health care coverage to 400,000 working Hoosiers. Recommendations included expanding Medicaid when the cost is fully paid for by the federal government, structuring an expansion after the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan and creating a contingency plan if the governor’s proposed expansion is rejected. Democrats continued to reiterate the 30,000 jobs expanding coverage would create as a strong basis to cover more Hoosiers, though the initiatives were rejected along party-line votes.
Sen. Tallian explained why offering an alternative health care component was an important addition to the budget:
SEN. TALLIAN: “The Senate Democrats today offered four amendments that would have addressed Medicaid expansion, health care expansion for Indiana…”
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Investing in pre-k, capping voucher funding
Acknowledging the strong support for the importance of early education and the need to oversee the state’s school voucher program, Senate Democrats offered a package of amendments to improve educational outcomes for all Hoosier children. An initiative offered by State Senator Earline Rogers would have created a pilot preschool program to evaluate best practices. An additional amendment would have separated the funding appropriated to the state’s voucher program and capped the amount of funds diverted from public schools.
SEN. ROGERS: “Well, what it would have done was, for us to stop and take a look at the vouchers and to not proceed until we were certain that the dollars were there for the other public schools…”
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SEN. ROGERS: “We’ve always thought that early childhood education was the missing piece of the puzzle that we needed for education reform. You know studies show…”
(Length – 01:21)
Rebuilding local roads
An amendment offered by Senate Democrats to restore transportation funding back to the levels included in the House-passed budget were rejected along party lines on Monday. The amendment would have allowed more flexibility and control for local governments. Senate Democrats aimed to give those communities additional infrastructure funding to be allocated to where attention is most needed in their communities. State Senator Tim Skinner authored the amendment as a means of injecting immediate dollars into communities to begin their local roads projects.
SEN. SKINNER: “Well, I think every one of us recognizes that we have not done enough in the last few years because of the recession to stay on top of the funding that we need for local roads…”
(Length – 00:39)
Senate Democrats will continue to push for these common sense initiatives as the budget process moves forward.
A complete listing of Senate amendments can be found at: http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo?year=2013&session=1&request=getBill&docno=1001 .