INDIANAPOLIS—On Thursday, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) and State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) held a press conference to discuss House Bill 1001 and Senate Democratic efforts to amend the budget in the Senate Appropriations Committee today.

Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee offered two Caucus priority amendments to the budget, each of which included multiple provisions that Senate Democrats consider priorities this legislative session and that need to be included in our next two-year budget.

Senate Democratic amendment #67 sought to improve the school funding formula. The Senate Democratic formula does the following:

·        Adds an additional $131.6M in FY 22 and $174.3M in FY 23 over the House SFF

·        Increases the funding for each special education category by 10% year-over-year in FY 2022 and FY 2023

·        Removes the House’s “complexity floor” and “complexity ceiling”

·        Sets virtual ADM funding to 85% of the foundation grant amount starting in FY 22

·        Excludes any Choice expansion

·        Excludes the creation of the ESA program

·        Keeps CTE categorical funding at FY 2021 levels

·        Sets the foundation grant amount to match the House-passed budget

·        Increase the complexity grant amount so that the appropriation grows year-over-year by 3%

“The House funding formula did not provide enough funding for traditional public schools and further eroded the complexity index that helps schools educate low-income students. That’s why my caucus thought it was necessary that we propose our own funding formula to provide increased funding for low-income and special education so that every Indiana school would do better,” Sen. Melton said. “While we appreciate that the Senate Republican recommendations to the budget are better than what the House proposed, we think there are still more improvements to be made on the funding formula.

“All we want is for our budget to include a more equitable funding formula that doesn’t divert money away from public schools in favor of voucher and virtual programs. Our public schools educate over 90 percent of our students. There’s just no reason why they should get less than 90% of the new funding going into the formula.”

Senate Democratic amendment #63 proposed the following:

·        Takes from Sen. Melton’s SB 334, offering an increase to the minimum wage to $10 and sets $1 annual increases until 2027

·        Increases the cigarette tax by $1

·        Raises wages for Direct Service Providers to $13 an hour in FY 22 and $15 an hour in FY 23

·        Restores cuts to the in-home CHOICE program

·        Provides a food bank appropriation increase

·        Restores funding for four mental health and addictions line item appropriations

“Senate Democrats have made it a priority to advocate for people in this budget. After a year that saw unprecedented unemployment, school closings and a shocking increase in hunger – it is our job to make sure we are doing everything we can for those who elected us,” Sen. Tallian said. “That’s why our caucus amendment to the budget demands more for essential workers, underpaid healthcare staff, families who have lost their jobs and are having a hard time getting food on the table, elderly Hoosiers and those whose mental health has suffered from all these struggles.”

Both amendments offered by the Senate Democratic Caucus were voted down along party lines in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senate Democrats will continue working toward a formula that promotes equality and equity and a budget that works for all Hoosiers.