Indiana Senate outlines budget proposal with funding aimed at education, mental health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Billions of dollars are in play within Indiana’s budget proposal. The Indiana Senate on Thursday unveiled their state budget proposal for the next two years.

Education funding and Indiana Choice Scholarship Program are among the hot topics for discussion.

In committee Thursday morning, Republican state senators proposed increasing K-12 school funding by $408 million over two years.

The proposal also increases the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program award levels, otherwise known as the voucher program.

The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on many Hoosiers, including their mental health. The state plans to spend millions on treatment, but much of that will come from the federal level.

The budget calls for allocating $100 million in federal money to the Family and Social Services Administration to address mental health issues.

$50 million would go toward the Health Issues and Challenges Grant Program. That would require the state to study and prepare a plan to improve the health and behavior of Hoosiers.

A goal would be to improve training for professionals to address mental health issues in schools.

Last month, Brandon George, Vice President of Mental Health America of Indiana, had concerns that mental health and addiction services could lose millions of dollars under the budget proposal.

“We’re pleased that they restored a good portion of this money. While we’re getting all these federal funds in, there’s a great opportunity for the next couple years to build infrastructure up,” said George. “But we really need that ongoing state money to serve as a foundation. Because when that $100 million’s gone in 2 years, what we’re going to be left with is what the state gives us each year. So, really, I have a positive outlook over the next couple of years, based on the news today.”

As for infrastructure, the proposal also calls for allocating federal money in the following ways:

  • $250M to expand broadband internet access
  • $10M over 2 years for more flights
  • $30M a year for local grants for water infrastructure and transportation

The proposal also removes a proposed cigarette tax hike.

The budget bill proposal passed out of committee Thursday, 11-2. Now it continues on in the Senate for further consideration.

Here is the original budget bill, HB 1001.