The last phase of crafting a new state budget is underway, with Republican negotiators in the House and Senate complimenting each other on the work they’ve done already.
House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley agree their two budgets are very close. Kenley says there’s room in the budget for increased funding.
“We’ve spent four to five years being pretty frugal,” Kenley says. “One of the opportunities we have is to refocus our priorities and if we want to add additional funding we want to put it into priorities where we think we’ll be going in the future.”
Both budget proposals increase school funding by three-percent over the next two years, and accelerate the planned phaseout of the inheritance tax. And both leaders say they’d like to use some of the state’s extra cash to wipe some debt off the books.
Tax cuts may be the biggest area of disagreement. The Senate version includes a three-percent income tax cut, a baby step toward the 10-percent Governor Pence has proposed. Brown made no promises about the inclusion of an income-tax cut in the final budget, but notes there‘s already agreement on a target of a half-billion dollars in tax relief.
He says the final package will include “tax cuts that will touch everyone in the state of Indiana.” Senator Karen Tallian warns one of budgeters’ biggest challenges is before a separate conference committee: a bill to expand private-school vouchers.