Senate President Pro Tem David Long says the Senate’s version of the budget will follow the House’s lead in steering more money to schools.
House Republicans’ budget gives schools a nearly half-billion-dollar increase over two years, double what Governor Pence proposed.
Long (R-Fort Wayne) suggests the governor lowballed the figure to give legislators room to increase it. Long says legislators will give schools as much as they can while keeping the budget balanced.
While senators are in sync with the goal of delivering as much funding as possible, there may still be some differing approaches.
Long says the Senate will grapple with the question of how to balance the needs of urban and suburban schools.
“Demographics and backgrounds do impact the ability of children to do well in school or not. Urban schools tend to have a lot more of those children. That’s a legitimate concern. The suburban schools, rural schools have a fair argument too about their funding – the argument would be to raise the foundation for everyone, and that’s what we’ll be looking at,” Long says.
Legislators and Pence will have to decide what constitutes an adequate surplus.
Long says the Senate has historically favored a surplus "around 12-percent" of spending. That‘s roughly halfway between the 12 and-a-half percent Pence has said he wants and the 11 percent in the House budget.
“Twelve percent is where we’ve been comfortable recently, that would seem to be the starting point, we’ll talk about that. Definitely going to have a strong surplus in reserve to make sure in a cloudy day, in a rainy day or in a storm in particular, we’re prepared to weather that storm,” Long says.
But Long notes it won‘t be clear how much money is available until state fiscal analysts update their revenue forecast in April, about two weeks before the end of the legislative session.