Budget forecast reason for optimism

The Republic

With one week remaining in the 2021 legislative session, the biennial budget plan opened up for legislators.

On April 15, after four months of crafting the bill, lawmakers learned they would get an additional $2 billion to spend over the next two years thanks to a favorable revenue forecast.

The unprecedented increase was attributed to greater sales tax receipts, but also an additional $3 billion coming directly from the federal American Rescue Plan program.

After receiving the news, House Speaker Todd Hutson said legislators should focus on using the money to pay down debt, better fund schools, and make one-time investments that would pay off in the long term.

Hutson’s priorities were right, and lawmakers followed suit.

Thanks to the increase, $1.9 billion will now go towards K-12 schools over the next two years — more than double what was originally proposed by the General Assembly. The increase will play a vital role in improving teacher pay, which has long lagged behind neighboring states.

Other programs that will see increased funding include $900 million in the infrastructure fund, $500 million in regional development, and $250 million in broadband expansion.

In addition, more than $1 billion has also been set aside to pay down the state’s debt.

The new budget achieved historic bipartisan support, which is fitting given how usual the budget cycle proved. It passed 96-2 in the House — with two Republicans objecting — and 46-3 in the Senate, with three Democrats saying “nay.”

The budget isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty of reason to celebrate as growth continues to trend up in Indiana.

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