INDIANAPOLIS—On Tuesday, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) had the following response after Republican leadership announced their final version of the budget bill, House Bill 1001:

“One of the top priorities for my caucus this session has been passing a budget that works for all Hoosiers,” Sen. Melton said. “This past year has been difficult, and we came to the Statehouse with the mission of supporting the Hoosiers who have been hit hardest during this pandemic and addressing the issues this pandemic has either brought to light or exacerbated.

“It was a primary goal of my caucus to ensure this budget adequately invested in K-12 education to allow our schools to operate, thrive and provide salary increases to our educators. My caucus also fought for a minimum wage increase, increased wages for direct service providers, more support for food banks and adequate funding for mental health and addiction services, among other things.

“Following the release of the revenue forecast last week, my caucus called on the General Assembly to invest more into public education, and we’re pleased that Republican leadership is responding to those calls. 

“We have not seen a school run yet, but hopefully it will show that public schools will be much better off this upcoming biennium. 

“I’m glad that the supermajority has committed more money to the school funding formula. I remain critical of the increases that were made to school choice programs, however. These programs educate less than 10 percent of our students, and simply should not be receiving such a large chunk of the money allocated to educational funding. 

“Over the last several years, Indiana Senate Democrats have been persistent advocates for increased funding to public education and raises for our teachers. We’re especially pleased that after such a difficult year, where schools and teachers took on even more work amid this pandemic, our teachers will finally see their wages increase.  

“We’re also happy that our proposed wage increases for the people that provide direct service to Medicaid waiver clients and a significant funding boost for our food banks were accepted into this budget. 

“The increased support for essential items in HB 1001 is a victory for our caucus and for the Hoosiers of Indiana. This is why we fight, and why we will continue to fight.”