INDIANAPOLIS — Governor Holcomb recently signed the state’s new two-year budget and has repeatedly touted it as successful and historic. What he fails to admit is how stingy his Statehouse Republicans were when they hacked away important programs from their budget. Initiatives that would have helped our most vulnerable Hoosiers were deemed unnecessary in favor of corporations and private schools.
In the end, there is no guarantee that teachers will get a pay raise, despite multiple Democratic efforts to ensure salary increases. The Republicans increased funding to vouchers and charter schools by upwards of 10 percent, yet many traditional public schools will struggle to make ends meet because funding barely exceeds inflation. I have a feeling that by this time next year, Hoosier educators will be staring at the exact same paychecks.
Children and families were ignored in the Republicans’ new budget. Mandatory adoption subsides, funding that is asked for consistently by adoptive families across the state, was stripped out in the final days of session. A $1.4 million reimbursement from the Department of Children Services to the Muncie Youth Opportunity Center was removed with no explanation. Instead, $2.5 million for a new swine barn stayed in.
Mass transit initiatives were also butchered in this new budget. It would only take $3 million to keep the Hoosier State trains running from Indianapolis to Chicago, connecting multiple communities in between. The Republican budget stripped local control away from the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) by reconstructing the Board to allow for handpicked governor appointees. Even still, the Republicans did not hesitate to add millions in the budget to subsidize flights for the wealthy.
Surprisingly, Statehouse Republicans had no problem ignoring one of the governor’s own agenda items – lowering the state’s staggeringly high infant mortality rate. Such an initiative seems as if it should get immediate bipartisan support, yet the supermajority rejected Democratic legislation to help solve this problem. A proposal to provide Medicaid coverage for doulas, a service key to combating infant mortality in minority communities, needed only $20,000 (only 0.00006 percent of the budget) to get off the ground. Statehouse Republicans showed no remorse when they removed this funding from the budget mere days before the end of session with no explanation. These same legislators didn’t hold their breath when including over $1 million for the off-road vehicle fund, however.
This budget was clearly not bipartisan. It was neither successful nor historic. What this budget does is tell our most vulnerable and disadvantaged Hoosiers that they must wait another two years to get their voices heard. And that, Governor Holcomb, is unacceptable.