The Indiana General Assembly has officially adjourned “sine die,” signaling the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session.
From the outset, I joined with other state leaders in calling for this to be an education session. Indiana’s school kids are the future of our state and it is imperative that we fund their needs. We must also provide our teachers with the necessary resources to help our students reach their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom.
Lawmakers worked together during the 2015 session to meet these important objectives.
More than 60 percent of our two-year state budget plan is dedicated to education, with a $474 million increase for K-12 schools.
Additionally, Senate Enrolled Act 566 increases pay for our best teachers by allowing local school boards to make up to half of a teacher’s bonus under the School Performance Grant program a permanent part of the teacher’s salary. SEA 566 also permits school boards to approve extra pay for teachers with master’s degrees in a subject they teach.
Two pieces of legislation that passed the General Assembly this year, Senate Enrolled Act 500 and House Enrolled Act 1009, seek to provide local schools with more freedom and flexibility. HEA 500 eliminates more than 50 outdated and obsolete education regulations that forced schools to commit resources to overhead instead of teaching. Under HEA 1009, every school board in Indiana is allowed to designate any of its schools an “Innovation Network School,” which operates with additional legal flexibility.
We had several other notable accomplishments in the General Assembly this session, including the passage of an honestly balanced budget. We also took steps to ensure our fiscal stewardship continues by passing a balanced budget amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 19.
If passed again by the legislature and approved by voters, SJR 19 will place balanced budget requirements into our state constitution. This amendment prohibits state appropriations from exceeding state revenues. Under emergency circumstances, this restriction could be suspended by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly. The resolution also requires Indiana’s public pension funds to be actuarially funded, which protects our teachers, and prevents court-ordered tax increases without approval from the General Assembly.
The two-year budget that passed the General Assembly, House Enrolled Act 1001, protects taxpayers by spending within our revenue estimates and ending the biennium with $1.85 billion in reserves.
This budget also prioritizes job growth and economic development by providing $200 million for major highway projects and $84 million over the biennium for the governor’s Regional Cities Initiative, which seeks to enable communities across Indiana to work together on economic development projects.
I am encouraged by the hard work that went into making this a successful session for the people of Indiana. As always, I welcome your input at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov or 800-382-9467.
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