Head: Senate Concludes 2017 Session With Passage of State Budget, Road-Funding Plan

STATEHOUSE  – State Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport) praised today’s passage of a new state budget that provides significant funding increases for education and a road funding plan that provides a long-term, sustainable blueprint for building and maintaining Indiana’s transportation infrastructure.

“Indiana’s two-year budget is good for Hoosiers. In this budget, we increase funding to help protect at-risk children and adults, fight drug abuse and improve the lives of Hoosier veterans,” Head said. “The state’s long-term road funding plan is also a positive for Indiana. Our state has a clear funding need, and this user-fee system is a fair and reasonable solution for improving our infrastructure.”

Highlights of the state budget (House Enrolled Act 1001) include: 

  • Education
    • Increases K-12 funding by $345 million over the biennium
    • Provides $30 million per year for the Teacher Appreciation Grant program, which gives cash stipends to high performing teachers in every public school district across the state
    • Increases total state university operating funds by $91 million over the biennium
  • Balanced Budget
    • Ongoing revenues exceed ongoing expenditures
    • Ends biennium with $1.9 billion in reserves
  • Public Safety
    • Provides a pay increase for Indiana State Police and other state law enforcement officers to make their salary levels competitive with other states (10 percent in Fiscal Year 2018 and 14 percent in Fiscal Year 2019)
  • Veterans
    • Provides funding for six new state veteran service officers
    • Provides $1.82 million over the biennium for veteran service organizations to improve assistance for veterans seeking benefits
    • Includes $1 million per year to help homeless veterans and establish a hyperbaric treatment pilot program to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Health and Human Services
    • Provides $10 million over the biennium to the governor’s office for substance abuse prevention, treatment and enforcement
    • Increases funding for the Department of Child Services by $200 million over the biennium to help meet the significant increase in casework demands
    • Provides a $3-million-per-year increase for Adult Protective Services

Highlights of the long-term road funding plan (House Enrolled Act 1002):

  • The 20-year plan is based on a user-pays approach, dedicating all of the taxes paid at the pump to road funding. This is the fairest system since those who pay the most will also get the most benefit.
  • When fully phased in, HEA 1002 provides $1.2 billion per year in new road funding – about $850 million for state highways and about $350 million for local roads.
  • For an average Hoosier driver, this plan will cost $5-$6 per month, based on a 10-cent gas-tax increase and a new $15 annual registration fee. This also creates a “fair share” annual registration fee for electric and hybrid vehicles that pay little or no gas taxes ($150 for electric vehicles and $50 for hybrids).
  • The plan will relieve traffic congestion, increase highway safety, support economic development, and allow Indiana to achieve recommended road and bridge conditions.

Head also authored bills such as Senate Enrolled Act 59, which addresses license reciprocity, and sponsored House Enrolled Act 1430, which addresses suicide prevention.

SEA 59 will create license reciprocity for out-of-state social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and mental health and addiction counselors.

This will help bring more mental-health professionals into Indiana to help increase Hoosiers’ access to these services.

HEA 1430 will require teachers and other employees of public, nonpublic and charter schools who work with students in grades five through 12 to complete a suicide prevention training program every three years.

“Too many Hoosier teens are taking their own lives,” Head said. “Because teachers are around their students five days a week, we need to ensure they are able to recognize suicidal actions and behaviors to help put an end to these preventable deaths.”

The Senate is now adjourned “sine die” – which signifies the end of the 2017 Indiana General Assembly.

 SOURCE: News release from the Office of Senator Randy Head