Mercifully, we’re nearing the end (hopefully).
Members of the House are currently taking turns on the floor voicing their opinions on the budget bill, which is expected to be voted on (relatively) soon.
Regarding the contents of this budget, Rep. Craig Fry (D-Mishawaka) says he’s embarrassed by it. Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) stated that Democrats were getting only “a teaspoon while Republicans walk away with a truckload.” Still, not all Republicans were pleased. Representative Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis) voiced his concern that the budget didn’t do enough to help homegrown Hoosier companies, many of which he feared would be forced out of business.
Leading up to and including today, much of the wrangling centered on K-12 education – be it funding (districts vs. students), charter schools, the scholarship tax credit program or virtual schools.
Indeed, Rep. Smith spent most of his floor time on this subject and denounced the education policies contained in the budget. Like the vast majority of Democrats, Smith had wanted the K-12 dollars to continue to be awarded on a school district basis, while Republicans were adamant the money follow the students. The problem with Smith’s argument: Large urban districts like Indianapolis and Gary continue to see declining enrollment. To Rep. Smith, however, Gary is being “treated like a stepchild.”
Smith and many other D’s also still haven’t warmed to the idea of charter schools and see them – as well as the tax credits to allow for school choice – as a threat to traditional public schools.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) pointed out that both the Gary and Indianapolis Public School (IPS) districts receive more funding per student than any other district in the state. In fact, IPS gets nearly $2,300 more per student than the state average.
Later on, fiscal stalwart Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale) implored legislators to do the right thing and vote "yes" on the budget. “We’ve all had our say; we’ve all had to compromise. I think we’ve done the best we can do. Anyone can find a reason to vote ‘no,’ but you can also find a reason to vote ‘yes’ … one reason being not having to raise taxes.”
Stay tuned for more …