Holcomb outlines big spending plans for education, public health, police in 2023 budget

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is seeking several major funding increases in the next state budget, including support for all K-12 textbooks, salary increases for state police troopers, and millions more for public health services in all 92 counties.

The Republican governor on Wednesday announced his priorities for the 2023 legislative session, which is set to kick off next week at the statehouse.

Indiana writes its two-year budgets in odd-numbered years during four-month sessions. State budget writers are likely to release their completed plan in April, following the release of the next revenue forecast.

Members of Holcomb’s administration say revenue increases have put the state in a favorable position to spend more and called the governor’s budget proposal his most comprehensive yet in terms of how many Hoosiers could benefit from state dollars, should lawmakers greenlight the requests.

State funding for textbooks

In addition to proposed increases to K-12 tuition support — 6% in fiscal year 2024 and another 2% in the following fiscal year — Holcomb is calling on state lawmakers to prohibit textbook and curricular material fees for Indiana families. Indiana is currently one of only seven states that allows families to be charged for textbooks.

Instead, the governor wants Indiana to fully fund those fees for more than 1 million Hoosier students at all public and charter schools, as well as some students at non-public schools.

The move would cost the state approximately $160 million per year — but only $121 million would be new money. Indiana already budgets $39 million per year for textbook reimbursement for the 440,000 Hoosier students who qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Under the proposed model, non-public school students who already qualify for textbook reimbursement will continue to be eligible for textbook fee waivers.

Salary raises for state police

To support Indiana State Police and other law enforcement officials, Holcomb also proposed raising the starting salary of state police troopers to $70,000. The governor’s administration noted that the current starting salary for state officers is $53,690. That’s “significantly below” other law enforcement agencies in the state, according to the Indiana State Police Alliance.

Increasing salaries is expected to cost about $36 million more per year.

Holcomb is seeking an additional $160 million per year to increase salaries for other state employees, too. He’s hoping such a move will help attract and retain more state workers.

New money available for county health initiatives

Asking for less than the Governor’s Public Health Commission originally suggestedHolcomb is pursuing $120 million in fiscal year 2024 and another $227 million in fiscal year 2025 to increase public health services across the state.

Stakeholders reduced their initial ask to $120 million from $243 million for the 2024 Fiscal Year after receiving a tepid response from budget writers, proposing a phased in approach for distributing monies to counties. In 2025, proponents asked for the full amount, though Holcomb’s ask still falls under the recommended threshold.

About 80% of that funding is earmarked specifically for Indiana’s 92 counties. Under the proposed model, each county would have the option to participate in the statewide program, which intends to “build from the ground up” and redesign health infrastructure. The remaining funds would financially bolster a myriad of public health needs across the state, including staffing, disease prevention, emergency preparedness, EMS services and child health screenings.

A funding formula based on a per-capita system and social vulnerability index has already been crafted to determine how much each county is eligible to receive. Counties will have a local share of 20% to participate.

The program would replace the state’s current Local Health Maintenance Fund, which is currently only funded at $6.9 million per year.

This story will be updated.

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