INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law Thursday a two-year state spending plan that has the potential to grow Northwest Indiana's economy and improve its quality of life for decades to come.
House Enrolled Act 1001 provides $6 million a year for the next 30 years to fund the state's share of the cost to double-track the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City.
Holcomb has long championed the effort to add a second track to the century-old commuter rail line and reduce travel times between Region communities and high-paying jobs in Chicago, the nation's third-largest market.
The Republican said getting the money in the budget for the double-tracking project is a huge step toward making that dream reality and a monumental achievement for the state that will bring new jobs and residents to Indiana.
"This is truly a historic moment in our state's history," Holcomb said.
The budget legislation also allocates $35.1 million to construct the Bioscience Innovation Building at Purdue University Northwest, a top priority of Lake County lawmakers for nearly a decade.
The new building on the Hammond campus will house state-of-the-art instructional and research facilities for nursing, biology and other science and technology programs.
In addition, the Republican-controlled General Assembly dedicated funds to address the impact of East Chicago lead contamination.
The School City of East Chicago will retain some $3.5 million it otherwise would have lost due to students moving out of the school district. The state also set aside $1.5 million to access federal matching grants for environmental cleanup.
At the same time, Northwest Indiana school corporations with growing enrollment will see their funding increase after lawmakers agreed to boost the basic per student grant provided to each school.
The current $5,088 foundation level will grow to $5,273 for the 2017-18 school year (a 3.6 percent increase), and to $5,352 in 2018-19 (1.5 percent).
Overall, the state will spend $15.9 billion in the 2018 budget year that begins July 1 and $16.4 billion in 2019.
In both years, Indiana will take in more money than it plans to spend with an estimated 2018 surplus of $79.9 million and 2019 surplus of $119 million.
The state's budget reserve fund will remain near the $1.85 billion mark — equal to nearly 12 percent of annual spending.