Commentary by Rep. Todd Huston
Indiana’s next two-year, $37 billion state budget accelerates opportunities for all Hoosiers – and in an unprecedented way. During the height of the worldwide pandemic, Indiana’s fiscal health proved its resiliency and our economic future is brighter than ever before. This legislative session, Indiana House Republicans hit the accelerator and worked hard to pay down debt while supporting jobs, economic development, K-12 education, public health, infrastructure and so much more.
This session’s game-changing news came in April when the fiscal forecast increased revenue projections by $2.4 billion over the next three years. A number of factors fueled this strong outlook, including an increase in job opportunities, higher consumer confidence, a successful vaccine rollout and an infusion of federal dollars into the economy. This forecast presented a golden opportunity to make strategic investments in Indiana’s future.
Republicans delivered on our long-standing commitment to fiscal integrity and prioritized initiatives that help Hoosiers without growing government. The two-year budget pays down more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded debt and pension obligations, including about $600 million allocated to the pre-1996 teacher pension fund. We stuck to conservative principles by supporting proven programs that have a strong return on investment while setting our state up for future tax cuts and reforms.
We delivered on helping local small businesses and boosting economic development. We provided relief to our hardest-hit small businesses by investing $60 million to expand the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant Program to help businesses recover from the pandemic. We also made a $500 million investment in the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (or READI) to encourage local governments to team up to make their communities, both large and small, a magnet for top talent and new jobs. We expect to see a significant ROI of at least $2 billion in public, private and philanthropic match funding, but much more is anticipated.
Republicans delivered on supporting students and teachers. Spending on Indiana’s K-12 schools represents half of the state’s biennial budget, and we invested a historic $1.9 billion in new money for K-12 education. The additional dollars made available to local schools exceeded the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission‘s funding recommendations to make teacher pay more competitive. We also made significant investments to expand school choice. Now, more Hoosier families than ever before will be able to choose the best education that meets their child’s needs.
We delivered on improving public health and boosting infrastructure investments. We restored mental health funding and appropriated an additional $100 million for mental health grants to target the state’s most pressing challenges. This budget also directs federal stimulus dollars toward Indiana’s critical infrastructure, including $250 million for broadband expansion and $160 million for water infrastructure grants.
This historic budget delivers big wins for all Hoosiers. For more than a decade, Republicans have stuck to conservative budgeting principles by paying down debt, saving for rainy days and refusing to spend beyond our means. Leadership matters, and I’m excited about the promise of our state’s future.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) represents House District 37, which includes portions of Hamilton County and Fishers.