House approves 2012-13 state budget

2011-03-30T21:00:00Z 2011-04-01T15:22:10Z House approves 2012-13 state budgetBy Dan Carden, (317) 637-9078

INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana House on Wednesday night approved a $28 billion, two-year state budget that cuts funding for many local schools, redistributes some Northwest Indiana casino funds for Little Calumet River levee maintenance and does not increase taxes.

The vote was 60-37 with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed. The measure now advances to the Senate.

The budget keeps statewide school funding for the next two years at the current level of $6.2 billion a year, but redistributes funds away from schools losing students and into new charter schools and traditional public schools gaining students.

Under the plan, funding for Gary Community School Corp. would drop from $94.2 million this year to $79.2 million in 2012 and $74.3 million in 2013.

Schools in Whiting, Lake Ridge, East Chicago, Munster, Porter Township and Hammond also would see their funding reduced.

Most charter schools in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond would get more money, along with public schools in Merrillville, East Porter, Hobart, Crown Point, Griffith, Portage and Valparaiso.

The budget also takes $6.8 million of 2012 casino tax money belonging to Hammond, Gary and Lake County and gives it to the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission for maintenance of Little Calumet River levees.

Without the maintenance to clear debris and fix pumps, the region could experience a $1 billion flood, said state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.

The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate began hearings on the House-prepared budget last week.

The exact school funding formula and other budget provisions are likely to be changed as the House and Senate negotiate a final budget to submit to the governor.

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