INDIANAPOLIS—On Wednesday, Governor Holcomb presented his priorities for the next state budget to the State Budget Committee. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary), Ranking Minority Member of the State Budget Committee, released the following statement in response to the governor’s proposed budget.

“One item that was glaringly absent from the governor’s budget was funding for teacher pay raises,” Sen. Melton said. “Hoosier educators were promised long overdue pay increases this budget cycle, and there was nothing in the governor’s budget that indicated his desire to follow through on his own promise. This pandemic showed the lengths our teachers go through to creatively educate our kids, and I think their work this past year has shown that they are even more deserving of immediate pay raises.

“The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission spent two years researching teacher pay in our state and developing recommendations on ways to make salaries more competitive for our Hoosier educators. So, I’m deeply disappointed to see the governor’s lack of commitment when it comes to supporting the recommendations put forth by his own commission.

“Simply passing the responsibility off to the legislature is not enough, and it doesn’t make sense when the Republican supermajority has shown us that we can’t rely on them to take action on this issue. We already know, from years of pushback from Republicans on teacher pay, that this is simply not a priority for them.

“If the governor truly wants to see action on teacher pay, I encourage him to actually make this a priority and get his party behind him to get this done. The Senate Democrats have proposals this year to raise teacher pay, and we are ready to partner with the governor to pass this legislation.

“Another concern I had with the governor’s proposed budget was the failure to address the inefficiencies of our school’s complexity index funding. In 2018, our state ranked 36th in the country for pupil funding, and 11th in the Midwest. We absolutely have work to do, but unfortunately you wouldn’t know that from listening to the governor’s funding priorities.

“I was also hoping to see increased funding for our food banks. All around the state, food banks have seen a drastic increase in the number of people in need of assistance. Yet, even in the middle of this pandemic, funding has remained stagnant at $300,000—which hasn’t changed for about a decade.

“To me, there seems to be no recognition of the people who are struggling. Instead, the governor’s office focuses on spending $5 million to incentivize international flights to and from Indiana. That shouldn’t be a priority when we have people in our state who are struggling to feed their families.”