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Bloomington Area Lawmakers Unhappy With New State Budget

Bloomington area legislators are speaking out against the budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels Tuesday night.

Bloomington Representative Peggy Welch says she voted for the budget only because she feared any more delay would have resulted in a worse compromise between the Senate, House and Governor.

She says the provision promising $27 million for a bailout of Indianapolis’s deficit-rattled Capital Improvement Board, which oversees venues for the city’s professional sports teams, almost changed her vote.

“That was difficult for me. That was something that really made me hold my nose to vote yes,” Welch said. “I tried to look at the big picture.”

Welch says the budget Senate Republicans and House Democrats agreed on in late April was by far a better budget for education. Between the regular and special sessions, a revenue forecast report gave lawmakers one billion fewer dollars to work with over the next two years.

Welch says an impending June revenue report would have resulted in the Governor and legislative Republicans to try to shave more money off the two-year $28 billion budget.

Fellow Bloomington Representative Matt Pierce voted against the budget. He says he was in favor of staying in Indianapolis to try to work out a better compromise. Pierce says public education in Monroe County and around the state will be significantly affected by their funding for the next two years.

“If you look at the Monroe County School System they’re going to get a .69% increase the first year. And about a .24 % increase the second. So over the next two years, with a less than one percent increase the way you have energy costs increasing and health care costs and everything in general,” Pierce said.

“That’s going to make it very difficult for Monroe County schools to do the job they want to do of educating our kids. Which I think should be the number priority of the state.”

The budget flatlined money for higher education, but approved many university building projects. Only three Senate Democrats and 14 House Democrats voted for the budget.

Now that the Indiana legislature has passed a new two-year budget, differing stories of how the six-month process played out are emerging. Last week, Governor Mitch Daniels toured the state delivering the message that Democratic House Speaker Pat Bauer was holding House Democrats’s votes hostage. On his multi-city tour, he claimed House Democrats were too timid to defy their leader’s alleged orders. Rep. Welch says Bauer told Democrats to vote their conscious based on how the budget would affect their individual districts.

“No. He was never holding us hostage. I find that quite offensive. That [Governor Daniels] would think, first of all, that Speaker Bauer would do that. And second of all, that we are such wimps and that we don’t get to make up our own mind. That’s highly offensive. We are equally elected officials with Pat Bauer and the Governor. We make our own decisions,” Welch said.

Rep. Pierce says lawmakers should have stayed and worked toward a better compromise and that a threatened government shutdown by the Governor easily could have been avoided.  Pierce says Daniels had the power to issue an order that would continue appropriations under the previous budget.

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