Jim Lucas: A state budget that prioritizes taxpayers, students

By Jim Lucas

Guest columnist

This session, state legislators are charged with crafting Indiana’s next two-year state budget.

The budget proposed by House Republicans maintains our strong commitment to fiscal responsibility by continuing to responsibly cut taxes, pay down debt, save for a rainy day and invest in Hoosiers’ priorities.

Under our budget proposal, which will likely change as it moves through the Senate, we propose lowering taxes to save Hoosier taxpayers nearly $625 million over the next two years.

Under current law, Hoosiers are expecting to see their individual income taxes drop to 2.9% by 2029. Our proposal would accelerate that planned cut to take effect by 2026. This expedited timeline could save taxpayers $470 million over the next years and $1.6 billion between now and 2030.

The bill also includes another $155 million in additional cuts over the next two years, including increased income tax deductions for homeowners and renters, additional tax cuts for new parents, increases to the earned income tax credit for low-income Hoosiers and exemptions for active duty military pay.

The budget also maintains prudent reserves to maintain state services in the case of an economic downturn and pays down the state’s pension obligations by more than $2 billion. The budget also makes smart investments that look out for Hoosier students.

For example, more than $24 million would be invested in the Secured School Safety Grant Program, which provides matching grants to Indiana school districts to address security needs. These dedicated grant funds would help pay for active alert warning systems, threat assessments and school resource officers who are trained to deter and prevent violence, among other things. In 2023 alone, our schools in Jackson, Bartholomew, Washington and Scott counties received more than $709,000 in matching grants.

Additionally, the budget includes funding for House Bill 1177, which I authored to enable school boards and public charter schools to enroll staff members interested in carrying a firearm on school property into a standardized 40-hour training course. This course would specialize in responding to an active shooter threat as well as firearm maintenance and safety practices.

Currently, Indiana’s public schools can allow teachers and other school staff to carry a firearm on school property. My legislation would create another option school boards could use to train educators and staff members to respond to threats.

The budget includes many other investments and will likely change as it makes its way through the Senate. I’m thankful for Indiana’s strong financial position and years of fiscal responsibility that have allowed us to make smart investments.

As we work to pass Indiana’s next two-year budget, please reach out with your thoughts and opinions by contacting me at 317-234-9447 or [email protected] Be sure to follow along at iga.in.gov, where you can track bills and watch session and committee hearings live.

State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, represents House District 69, which includes portions of Bartholomew, Jackson, Scott and Washington counties.