INDIANAPOLIS – In their final budget deal, Republican Indiana lawmakers have set aside more funding for mental health, public health and K-12 schools, along with a significant expansion of the state’s school choice voucher program.
Republican lawmakers control both chambers in the Indiana General Assembly.
One of their biggest priorities this session has been mental health. The two-year budget proposal allocates $100 million in state funds for enhanced community mental health services.
“We wanted to make sure that 988 was fully funded and provide additional resources for programs and support,” said House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers).
The budget plan also sets aside $225 million for public health departments – about two-thirds of what Gov. Eric Holcomb requested.
As for education, the budget includes an additional $1.2 billion for K-12 school tuition support and has separate funding to eliminate textbook and curriculum fees for public and charter school students.
The plan also expands income eligibility for school choice vouchers from 300% of the free and reduced-price lunch limit to 400%. That means a family of four making up to $220,000 a year would become eligible.
Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) told reporters his caucus “is supportive of parental choice in schools and always has been and probably will continue to be.”
That part of the budget is one area of disappointment for Statehouse Democrats.
“They’re rolling this vouchers into the whole formula, which takes away from traditional public schools, so you have a small group of individuals that are going to benefit from this,” said State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis).
Porter and State Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said they will vote against the plan.
“It doesn’t go far enough into funding the health care elements, primarily around the mental health components,” Melton said.
Because Republican lawmakers hold a supermajority in the state legislature, the budget bill can pass without any Democratic support.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill Thursday.