INDIANAPOLIS—Today, the Indiana Senate voted in favor of the state’s next two-year budget. Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary) voted against the proposal, citing concerns with provisions included in House Bill 1001, as well consternation over the bill not going far enough to assist Hoosiers in need.

“I know working on the budget isn’t an easy process, and I commend Sen. Mishler and Sen. Bassler for their work on House Bill 1001 and their efforts to collaborate with my caucus to get some of our language included in this bill,” Sen. Melton said. “Unfortunately, despite the improvements we’ve seen on the budget in the Senate, this is still not a budget I can support.

“In its current form, our budget still doesn’t address in totality the needs and best interests of our residents. It’s not a budget that fully touches on the concerns of those in my district and many residents in the state. We haven’t expanded postpartum care, we didn’t provide Hoosiers with a living wage and we didn’t do enough to adequately fund traditional public school education.

“Although there was an increase in funding for K-12 here in the Senate, which I appreciate, it simply wasn’t enough. When we held our subcommittee for the school funding formula a few weeks ago, several superintendents used the word ‘equitable’ when discussing what they wanted to see from our school funding formula. The equitable allocation of dollars is what my caucus’ school funding formula would have ensured, and it’s truly a shame that Indiana schools don’t have the opportunity to flourish and thrive with a formula that benefits every traditional public school in our state. When I look at the actual funding amount that school corporations in my district will receive under this budget, funding falls short. Half of the school corporations in my district will actually receive less funding under the Senate Republican formula than they currently get.

“House Bill 1001 is the most important legislation we advance during a budget year, and this budget doesn’t do enough to address the most pressing issues impacting Hoosiers. The governor’s teacher compensation commission report came out in December with a recommendation that we invest an additional $600M, on top of our regular educational funding dollars, per year in order to make Indiana teacher pay competitive with our surrounding states. Obviously, the $404M the Senate Republicans dedicate to the K-12 formula over the two-year biennium, none of which is solely dedicated to raise teacher pay, falls far short of that recommended investment. That amount barely allocates enough to keep schools going, let alone give local communities the ability to provide teachers with raises.

“House Bill 1001 also sustains cuts to mental health and addiction support, which is the opposite of what we should be doing during this pandemic when so many Hoosiers are in need of such assistance. No additional dollars are going to our food banks, which have seen exponential increases in Hoosiers seeking their services over the last year. Ultimately, HB 1001 just doesn’t go far enough to help our residents in the areas where they are most vulnerable.

“While the budget that passed out of the Senate today inadequately addresses the state’s K-12 and public health needs, we still have an opportunity to improve it before this legislative session ends. On Thursday, the Budget Committee will receive an updated revenue forecast. My hope is that the forecast will bring enough additional revenue that we can drive $600M to teacher pay. If our revenue forecast does look good, which I believe it will, I really hope we use that as motivation to turn around and do more to invest in Hoosiers and K-12 funding this year. Time has not run out yet; we can still pass a budget that works for every Hoosier. If our revenue forecast reveals that we have the resources, as well—I only hope that the Republican supermajorities will support an increased investment in education and social services, rather than banking any new revenue to grow the already large reserves. I know that my caucus will be fighting to the very last day to increase our investment in the people of Indiana.”