INDIANAPOLIS | State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who led budget negotiations for the Senate Democrats, is disappointed with the spending and tax cut plan approved last week by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
"It is a political show, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," Tallian said.
From the state's largest expense, education, down to its smallest, among them food banks, Tallian believes Indiana wasted an opportunity to use its projected surpluses to restore funding cut during the recession and invest in the people and programs critical to the state's future.
"When you have teachers quitting because they can make more money driving a truck, there's something wrong with our system," Tallian said.
She noted that half the school corporations in the state will get fewer dollars in 2015 than they did in 2011.
And that's before slicing public school funding to redirect some $60 million a year to the state's private school voucher program, a portion of which may be paying for ineligible students because no one is checking compliance with voucher income requirements, she said.
"Vouchers have now become an entitlement program," Tallian said. "Either we have to separate the voucher money from the public school money, and we'd argue for a separate line item, or we have to add more money."
At the same time, she said, the budget contained in House Bill 1001 is "stingy" with what she described as "little programs," such as public television, community arts, the environment, women's shelters and tobacco cessation.
"All of these programs mean a lot to local people. These little programs win nothing from this budget. Some of them lose," Tallian said. "Giving back to the community does not just need to be in the form of a tax refund."
Speaking of the $1.1 billion in tax cuts included in the budget, Tallian called them "an illusion" because most were either already in effect or don't take effect for several years.
She described the 2015 personal income tax rate reduction to 3.3 percent from 3.4 percent as "smoke and mirrors."
"There's just no way that we can believe that anyone can claim this tax cut will create any jobs now," she said. "This is not a fiscally responsible thing to do. It's not necessary. It's not even wanted."
Tallian said public opinion polls show more Hoosiers prefer lawmakers decriminalize marijuana than support the tax cuts included in the budget.