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A Breakdown Of What's In Gov. Pence's Budget Proposal

Pence Budget

Governor Mike Pence unveiled his budget proposal Thursday. It is just that, a proposal, and the legislature has the final say, but it does provide a look into what initiatives the governor is making his priorities.

Here's a breakdown of what's in his budget:

Education

Pence says he wants the 2015 meeting of the General Assembly to be an “education session” and the budget he proposed shares that focus.

As StateImpact reports, the governor wants to increase K-12 funding by 2 percent in 2016 and one percent in 2017, which adds up to a $200 million increase over the two years.

“In the category of funding, the first priority of this budget will be expanding opportunities for our youth in Indiana, from pre-k education to higher education,” Pence said.

But, Austin Democratic Representative Terry Goodin says a $200 million increase doesn’t tell the whole story when it is split between traditional public schools, charters and private schools.

“People are confused at home,” Goodin says. “As I speak to constituents, they say, ‘Hey, they gave you 200 million more dollars in education.’  Well okay, yeah but here’s where this money went.  So that money’s not coming back to communities like it should.”

Another part of Pence’s proposal increases funding to the state’s new pre-k pilot program allotting $10 million each year for the two-year budget cycle.

Prisons and Community Corrections

The state’s recent overhaul of the criminal code is meant to drive more people away from the prison system and into community corrections and local treatment programs. This year, the legislature was expected to figure out how to fund those changes.

But the governor’s proposed budget only provides money at the state level.

State Budget Director Brian Bailey says that includes $51 million for new cell houses at the Miami and Wabash Valley Correction Facilities.

“We have prioritized the state’s need to build facilities that will take care of protecting Indiana citizens from the more serious violent offenders,” Bailey says.

Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley says there’s a fundamental disagreement about what will happen to the prison population as a result of the criminal code overhaul.

“The Department of Correction feels that they have to take the prudent approach and they have estimates that show that they think that there’s going to be a higher prisoner population,” Kenley says.

Kenley says the funding needs of community correction programs will be a major part of the legislature’s discussions during the budget writing process.

Bicentennial

Next year is Indiana's bicentennial and the proposed budget includes more than $50 million for several bicentennial projects.

Atkins says that includes money for a statewide torch relay, a Bicentennial Plaza next to the Statehouse and an education center at the State Library.

“The two big ones are a new State Archives building and a new Bicentennial Inn at Potato Creek State Park in Saint Joseph County. That would be the first new state park inn built since 1939,” Atkins says.

Atkins says the state may be able to pay for the bicentennial projects by leasing out state cell towers.

Kenley says he will need to take a closer look at the proposal before giving his support.

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