INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, members of the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus announced a number of proposals that comprise the caucus’ legislative priorities for the 2015 legislative session. While the main focus this session will be crafting the state’s budget for the next two years, Senate Democrats will work towards more common-sense initiatives that put real Hoosiers first.

Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) stated now is the time for the legislature to shift its focus on improving the status of middle-class Hoosiers.

“Our caucus priorities align with the needs of Hoosier working families because, to be honest, we can work toward more impactful policies that make a real difference in Hoosiers’ everyday lives,” said Sen. Lanane. “If you work 40 hours a week, you shouldn’t live in poverty.”

The Senate Democrats will focus their efforts on giving Hoosier families a raise, expanding educational opportunities and improving Hoosier health outcomes.

In an effort to provide Hoosier families a meaningful raise in income and further boost the state’s economy, Senate Democrats will propose an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, a raise in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from nine percent to 10 percent, as well as an expansion of eligibility for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) voucher program.

Senate Democrats believe that in order to improve education outcomes, the state must instill a culture of lifelong learning starting with pre-kindergarten, and restore Department of Education funding to pre-recession levels. Last year, Senate Democrats spearheaded the development of the state’s first early childhood education program. This year, the caucus will propose an expansion of the program to the additional 14 counties that the state originally targeted for the pilot program. Additionally, to combat the undue financial burden placed on Hoosier families by textbook rental fees and school busing fees, the caucus will advocate for an increase in funding for the Department of Education to cover these costs.

Finally, Indiana was once again ranked 41st in the nation for overall health. Senate Democrats will be focusing on addressing the shortage of primary care physicians in 81 of 92 counties by providing incentives for medical students to practice in Indiana. To address the needs of Hoosiers with mental health and substance abuse concerns, Senate Democrats will offer a proposal to expand the mental health pilot project approved last session. Finally, in an effort to protect our senior citizens, Senate Democrats will propose a study to examine how Indiana can improve our statewide adult protective services that investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of our most vulnerable adults.