Last night, the Indiana House Committee on Ways and Means met for two hours to discuss the upcoming 2021-2023 state budget. Here were some of the lowlights.
Teacher pay: Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) offered an amendment that would incentivize local school districts to set a minimum starting salary for teachers at $40,000 by increasing funding $100 per student for every district that participated. Not only did all 16 Republicans on the committee vote against it, Rep. Jack Jordan (R-Bremen) blamed teachers unions for not securing higher pay. Representative DeLaney proposed another amendment that would dip into Indiana's massive ($100 billion+) surplus to provide bonuses to teachers. All 16 Republicans voted no.
Food banks: Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) proposed an amendment that would increase Indiana's appropriation to food banks from a pathetic $300,000 to an only-slightly-less-pathetic $500,000. All 16 Republican committee members voted no, despite 15%, or nearly one million Hoosiers, facing food insecurity. (For reference, our neighbor Ohio has appropriated $20 million. To save you the math, that's a state having 2x our population spending 66x the amount on food in the midst of a pandemic.)
Horse racing: The good news? At least House Republicans found it important to pass an amendment increasing the number of horse races that can be run in the State of Indiana in a single day. Thank god they did, because struggling Hoosiers have a better shot at winning big on the ponies than they ever do getting meaningful help from this legislature.
This budget has not yet been adopted, and we have time to make our voices heard. Tell Indiana legislators that a state that can afford to spend nearly a billion dollars incarcerating citizens every year and tens of millions on private school vouchers that we won't accept any more excuses on increasing pay for our teachers and taking care of our citizens that need us the most.