Following the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis, I must say that it has been nice to be home this past week. Session is an exciting process to be a part of, but for now, I am just going to enjoy the fact that I can be at my restaurant more often to talk to the folks I represent at the Statehouse.
As a first time legislator, my review of the 2013 session is probably a little different than many others. There was a steep learning curve, but with the help of other representatives and the support of my committees and the Speaker, I feel that we accomplished a great deal that will benefit Hoosiers now and for generations to come.
A fiscally conservative, balanced budget passed out of the House and Senate and will be signed into law by the governor. This $30 billion biennial budget includes the largest tax cut package in Indiana history. By eliminating the death tax, reducing the income tax by 5 percent, continuing the reduction of the corporate income tax and lowering the financial institutions tax, more than $650 million will be put back into the hands of Hoosiers each year.
Increased funding in the budget for education and infrastructure, along with a plan to reduce taxpayer-funded debt by repaying $128 million in bonds owed on two state facilities, will also help improve the Indiana economy, making it easier for Hoosiers to get ahead.
I have said many times that helping women and children in need is one of my passions; this is why I am extremely pleased with the $35 million budget increase for the Department of Child Services, which will allow them to hire additional staff and improve behavioral and mental health services. I will always advocate for protecting the most vulnerable Hoosiers.
There’s a lot more in the budget that will benefit Indiana now and in the future, including more money for state and local roads and bridges. Indiana is the Crossroads of America, and we need to keep our infrastructure in a condition that maintains that reputation and attracts more jobs here.
Education is also a large portion of the budget, increasing funding by $390 million over the next two years. Investing an additional $190 million over the biennium for higher education operations, $75 million for student financial aid and $30 million for K-12 performance funding will help prepare future generations of Hoosiers to take the lead in moving Indiana forward.
On that note, I would also like to take a moment to congratulate all those graduating from high school and college this month. This is a great accomplishment and a wonderful time in your life. Many opportunities are headed your way, and I hope that you take advantage of each and every one. A very wise woman once said, “Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and don’t give up.” - Rachel Corrie.
(State Rep. Cindy Ziemke serves as Vice Chairman of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Ziemke represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.)