House Speaker Brian Bosma unveils the House Republican budget Monday.
House Speaker Brian Bosma unveils the House Republican budget Monday.
By JACOB CURRY

INDIANAPOLIS - House Speaker Brian Bosma announced Republican legislative priorities for the 2019 session Monday morning that will focus on kids and teachers, as well as a balanced biennial budget.

The Republicans outlined top priorities: Enacting a balanced responsible state budget, increasing protections for Indiana's youth, strengthening the state's commitment to to students and teachers, promoting further workforce initiatives and supporting Hoosier veterans.  
    
Bosma acknowledged that the budget took special emphasis. "Passing an honestly balanced two-year state budget will take center stage," he said, but added, "We are hitting the ground running to ensure a productive legislative session." 

The two points Republicans are focusing on for the budget are to be expected: Maintaining the state's reserves and its AAA credit rating. But that's not a simple ask, Bosma said the additional $286 million that the Department of Child Services will require annually over the two-year budget period has narrowed this year's fiscal focus to K-12 education funding.
    
On the education front, Bosma spoke of three bills which would introduce initiatives to help solve funding issues and also make Indiana more competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining quality teachers. 

First, House Bill 1003, authored by State Rep. Dale DeVon (R-Granger), aims to increase spending of school funds on classroom expenses as opposed to overhead or operational costs. The bill sets a target for local public schools to spend at least 85% of their state funding on "instructional expenses," about a 5% increase over what most schools are currently able to spend. The other two bills, Rep. Bob Behning's (R-Indianapolis) HB 1008, and HB1009, also introduced by Rep. DeVon, aim to improve career opportunities for educators in the state. HB1008 would establish career advancement paths for teachers that keep them in the classroom rather than moving them to administrative positions. HB1009 seeks the creation of new residency programs to attract young professionals to Indiana classrooms.
    
Also on the GOP agenda is increasing protections for Hoosier children, both at school and in the field of health. Rep. Greg Steuerwald's (R-Avon) DCS reform bill HB1006 was the first Bosma acknowledged. The bill deals with balancing case manager workloads and giving them greater flexibility in reporting and prioritizing. Bosma also recognized the need for increased school safety in Indiana, highlighted by the shootings in Noblesville and Richmond last year. HB1004, authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) implements the recommendations of the governor's school safety report, comprising the focus of Republican efforts on that front. 

Finally, Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer's (R-Beech Grove) HB1007 intends to reduce Indiana's seventh-highest-in-the-nation infant mortality rate. The bill increases engagement with at-risk expecting mothers and requires providers to give verbal substance use screenings to pregnant women. 
    
In line with the goals on attracting educators to the state, the GOP also seeks to help Indiana retain and retract a quality workforce in other areas. Bosma highlighted Rep. Holli Sullivan's (R-Evansville) work on HB 1002 as the spearhead for this priority. The comprehensive bill seeks to invigorate career exploration and navigation in Indiana through technical education courses, certificates and postsecondary degrees. HB 1002 additionally prioritizes funding for programs with proven ROI (Bosma floated the Cook Program as an example) and encourages schools to further partner with employers for learning opportunities. 
    
Lastly, HB1010 from Rep. Bob Cherry (R-Greenfield) comprises the House GOP's effort to aid Hoosier veterans. The bill grants an income tax exemption for military retirement pensions and increases the assessed value eligibility cap for disabled vets' property tax exemption.

Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta reacted, saying, “The GOP priorities listed are the same ones that have been a part of Republican agendas stretching over the past three administrations: Cut spending at all costs in order to increase the surplus. When in doubt about what to cut, study and delay making any decisions … unless it comes to cutting taxes for big business."