INDIANAPOLIS – Members of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration presented his proposed two-year budget to Indiana lawmakers Thursday as the governor calls for billions of dollars in additional spending.
Gov. Holcomb is proposing $5.5 billion in new spending over the next two years across several areas, including public health, education and law enforcement.
Now he has to get state lawmakers on board with his plan to make it a reality.
Cris Johnston, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, told the State Budget Committee Thursday he believes Indiana can afford to ramp up government spending while maintaining a balanced budget.
“It gives us the capacity to consider additional investments,” Johnston said.
Some of the highlights of Holcomb’s proposal: A nearly $1.2 billion increase in K-12 school tuition support, $347 million for public health and $500 million dollars for community development grants.
The governor also wants to raise starting pay for state troopers to $70,000 a year. That would be the highest starting pay for police in Indiana, according to his office.
During a news conference Wednesday, Holcomb expressed urgency about his proposed investments.
“Our agency heads have been working hard on all these items,” Holcomb said. “We think that they’re not just legitimate, we think that they’re needed.”
“If you look at the overall spending, it does seem high,” said State Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka), who chairs the State Budget Committee. “But until I break it down into the individual buckets, it’s hard to say.”
He told reporters Thursday he’s still reviewing the governor’s plan but wants to make sure the state would still have enough money in reserves.
He also wants to ensure additional funding for public health will be used wisely, he added.
“Getting a lot of discussion at home about that, how are we going to spend that,” Mishler said. “So I think we have to take a hard look at the breakdown of that money.”
Meanwhile, State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis), who also serves on the State Budget Committee, said he likes several aspects of the governor’s plan but wishes public health and education funding went higher, especially as schools deal with increased costs from inflation.
“Even though we have that over billion dollars, what does that billion dollars really go to?” Porter said.
Holcomb’s proposed budget totals $43 billion over the next two years, according to the governor’s office.
The new legislative session begins Monday.