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Hogsett urges Indiana lawmakers to prioritize infrastructure, public health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Mayor Joe Hogsett on Tuesday said lawmakers would end up helping all Indiana cities if they worked with him on several policy goals.

Hogsett, a Democrat, said he wants lawmakers to implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Public Health Commission, including adding $240 million per year in public health spending to bring Indiana’s health budget up to the national average. He said he wants to see more funding for food access programs and housing programs as well, in addition to new renter’s rights such as the ability to withhold rent from a landlord that fails to address maintenance needs in a timely manner.

“We’ve put together a coalition of counties, particularly those that are contiguous to Marion County, that have some of the same challenges,” he said. “We’ve really approached our legislative agenda not as the city of Indianapolis alone but rather as central Indiana.”

Hogsett’s requests will have to run through a Republican-dominated legislature deeply hesitant to embark on new, large-scale spending. Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, told News 8 any effort to expand public health funding will have to be balanced against other needs, such as increasing K-12 school spending. He said the state should bring in about $600 million in new, additional tax revenue in each of the two years of the budget cycle but that sum will be used up very quickly once it starts getting distributed among different programs.

“There’s never enough dollars to go around so we have to be thoughtful about how we do it but we do want to change the infrastructure of how we deliver those public health services,” he said.

Hogsett said he also will push lawmakers to rework the state’s road funding formula to give Indianapolis a larger share of the pot, so long as it doesn’t hamstring surrounding towns.

One area where both leaders appear to be in agreement is the issue of 3D-printed parts that allow someone to convert a semiautomatic firearm into a fully automatic weapon. Hogsett said prosecutors want lawmakers to clarify whether or not firearms equipped with such devices fall under the definition of a machine gun, ownership of which requires a much stricter permitting process, and Bray said senators already are discussing such legislation behind the scenes.