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Indiana budget now in hands of state Senate

After a five-week layoff, the Indiana House is racing to approve bills --- including the state budget --- to make up for lost time.

With Republicans firmly in control, the Indiana House approved a $28 billion two-year spending plan this week.  The Indiana Senate, also controlled by Republicans, is now considering the budget, and should have no problem adopting it despite objections from Democrats.

One of those Democrats, State Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster, decries cuts to education funding.

“I think the budget reflects the different priorities that we have as a party. The Republican budget reflects that in their continued cuts to education,” Candelaria Reardon said. “Three Hundred million dollars worth of cuts that they are using as a base for the school funding formula and it hurts children.”

House members voted 60-37 on party lines to advance the spending plan that was stalled during the month-long boycott by Democrats.  House Republican Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich told the House the budget was prudent with no tax increases, but changes in the distribution formula will cut funding to some urban and rural districts.

Democratic Rep. William Crawford of Indianapolis said he expected many districts would seek approval of property tax increases in referenda because of the funding limitations.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will start hearings on the budget next Thursday, April 7.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, said the long delay in the House caused by the Democratic boycott undermines the budget approval process.

“Lawmakers went into the session aware of the severe financial crunch felt by states due to the prolonged national recession. However, the work stoppage by Indiana House Democrats has made a difficult session nearly impossible,” Long said.

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