Lawmakers pass $30 million state budget

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Lawmakers passed the state's $30 million budget early Saturday, bringing the General Assembly to a close.

The two-year budget includes a five-percent income tax cut and immediate termination of the inheritance tax in Indiana.

Governor Mike Pence wanted a 10 percent tax cut, but a compromise was reached for half of that. Republicans touted the five-percent income tax cut as part of the largest tax cut budget in history.

Lawmakers in turn, eliminated the Inheritance Tax, and will also phase down corporate tax and lower the Financial Institutions tax.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath called the tax cuts included in the budget a "sham" for the average resident.

The minority says the initial three percent cut when phased in by 2015 will put only eighty cents a week in your pocket and when the cut is completely phased in, in 2017, they say it will amount to $1.50 a week.

"I would describe this as a somewhere over the rainbow tax cut because it doesn't go into effect until January 2015," said Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson).

In an earlier interview, House Speaker Brian Bosma said, "The income tax, at the balance we settled for, we will be one of the few states actually cutting an income tax."

Motorsports Initiative passes

Just after midnight Friday, legislators passed the Motorsports Initiative bill, which will provide up to $100 million in loans over 20 years to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for capital improvement projects.

The loan will be repaid with tax money collected at IMS and will be guaranteed by the Speedway's parent company, Hulman & Co. The Speedway will contribute $2 million a year toward the improvements over the 20-year period.

"This legislation will allow us to make transformative improvements to our 104-year-old facility over the next several years that will greatly enhance the fan experience," said Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.

The bill will also create a fund for improvements in the motorsports industry statewide.

Resource officers, vouchers pass

Lawmakers also passed a bill giving grant funding for school resource officers. The career police officers are trained to work in school settings.

The Senate approved an expansion of the state's school voucher program late Friday night. Indiana's current voucher law requires all students to spend at least one year in public school before becoming eligible if their families meet income limits.

The bill would open up the program to students who live in the attendance district of a public school that received a state performance grade of F. It also makes the siblings of current voucher students immediately eligible.

Opponents argued that the voucher expansion would drain more money from public schools.

Protecting children online

Senate Bill 347, which will make changes to the Indiana criminal code to protect children in the state will also move to Governor Mike Pence's desk for final approval.

The bill makes it illegal for sex offenders on probation to communicate with a child under 16 years old on a social networking website, defines soliciting a child online and traveling to meet them as "attempted child molesting," and lowers the age to 18 for a person to be charged with inappropriate communication with a child. The minimum age for that offense is currently 21 years old.

Hidden camera, gaming bills fail

Other bills were unable to garner enough support to reach the governor's desk.

The "Ag Gag" - or hidden camera - bill is officially dead. The bill would have allowed for prosecution of those who take pictures on private property with the intent to do harm.

A gaming bill to allow live dealers in racinos in Anderson and Shelbyville is also dead. Supporters argued it could create 600 new jobs, but opponents viewed it as expansion of gaming and that was a no-go.

Legislators also rejected efforts to speed up the collection of sales tax from

Common Core, the set of federal education standards, was expected to be blocked. The Republican majority in the Statehouse does not like the idea of nationally-mandated standards. This will probably get some more public hearings before any further action is taken.