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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Indiana’s budget battle part one;

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At least Indiana’s not California. There Gov. Arnold Swarz–enegger, the GOP’s former golden Governor, is facing a humongous $25 billion deficit is ready to close prisons and parks, cut health care for children and turn California into America’s dreariest state.

Meanwhile in Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels, the GOP’s new golden governor, plans to ram through a budget that could negatively impact education, especially education in Indiana’s poorest urban neighborhoods.

I’m not surprised that the latest estimates show Indiana’s revenues a billion below projections. In a state where one-in-10 homeowners are late on their mortgages, with two major employers in bankruptcy, it’s obvious that Indiana’s hurting because of what some are now calling the Great Recession.

But with the falling revenues, and despite hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money going to Indiana’s public schools, Daniels’ budget threatens to flat line education spending. And in this non- inflationary economy that’s still a defacto cut.

Democratic lawmakers, especially from Indianapolis and Lake County, are terrified that Daniels’ austerity budget will decimate schools.

One lawmaker warned me last week that the school funding formula being pushed by the governor and the Senate Republicans would cut millions from Indianapolis Public Schools and the Gary School System.

“These districts are losing the most students,” the lawmaker told me. “They are at the greatest risk.”

But the education-funding crisis also hits fast growing school districts. I can’t understand a state funding system where growing districts like Carmel, Brownsburg and Hamilton Southeastern are forced to cut teachers and programs because of a lack of funding.

The governor is balancing his budget cuts by maintaining a $1.3 billion surplus in his proposed two-year budget. It’s unclear what Daniels would use the surplus for. We’ve had a billion dollar surplus in the budget that ends this month. But I don’t think that billion’s been tapped? So, why have a surplus just to say you have one, while cutting services for education and the poor?

The governor says his goal is to create a new state budget “that preserves essential services and protects Hoosier taxpayers against tax increases.”

So, why is Daniels ready to stick Indianapolis taxpayers with tax increases to pay for a dubious bailout of the Capitol Improvement Board (CIB)?

Republican State Senate Leader David Long says, “special interests will not be accommodated” during the special session. Long, Daniels and Republicans are adamant that Indy taxpayers only pays the cost of the dubious $20/$30/$40 million (what is it??) CIB deficit.

They refuse to even consider the CIB solution that won’t cost Indy taxpayers a penny, allowing some gambling options for Marion County to fund the CIB mess.

I don’t have a problem with this special session dealing with a budget for the people of Indiana. But for the governor and Sen. Long to say the special session won’t deal with special interest legislation while ramming tax increases down Indianapolis residents’ throats, tax increases we do not want, is hypocrisy of the highest order!

The refusal of the governor and Republicans to consider non-taxpayer funded options to the CIB crisis, coupled with a budget that eviscerates schools in our community could mean the possible refusal of African-American legislators to vote for any budget compromise.

It also could mean that any CIB tax increase plan that passes the legislature could be defeated by a coalition of African-American and conservative Republican and Libertarian City-County Councilors.

What I’m Hearing

in the Streets

The State Department of Education has finally admitted what I said this spring, that they blew it and disrespected students across Indiana with those botched Spring ISTEP tests. After a review by 160 teachers and others, state education officials admitted that some of the questions on the tests, especially those for fourth graders, were too hard and not appropriate.

But the worst insult was the state admitting that a significant number of questions on the ISTEP tests were “pilot” questions, or questions being tested for use in future ISTEP tests; questions that did not count.

What an insult to our students, teachers, parents and the competency testing process!

I’ve never heard of students being tested with “pilot” questions that don’t count on a test that determines the fate of students, schools and districts.

How absurd! That’s like giving those great kids in the Spelling Bee Finals last week words that didn’t count towards winning the championship. That’s the same fraud our state education officials perpetuated on Hoosier students with the Spring ISTEP.

Since Hoosier students had to answer “pilot” test questions, the fair thing in this fiasco would be to give every student 100 “free points” towards their ISTEP score as compensation for having to spend time answering “pilot” questions.

Finally, the city’s Web site www.indygov.org has direct homepage link for information about how city/county agencies are spending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. But unfortunately, that link informing the public on Federal stimulus spending in Indianapolis still leaves much to be desired.

For example, the web page mentions ARRA funding for IndyGo, but provides no link to IndyGo’s Web site which has detailed information on their stimulus funding.

There’s no link or details on ARRA funding for the Department of Public Safety and Department of Public Works.

When you click the link on ARRA information for the Indianapolis Housing Agency you go to that agency’s homepage. Unfortunately, there is no link to any Housing ARRA funding or spending.

The same dysfunction occurs in the link to the Indianapolis Private Industry Council (IPIC)’s Web site. There’s no ARRA information on their homepage or link to any page containing that information.

Mayor Greg Ballard’s minions have taken umbrage of this column’s complaints about their lack of information on stimulus funding on the city’s Web site. While the administration’s doing better, their web efforts are still infantile and embarrassing.

The mayor’s minions should check out how San Diego, Baltimore and Seattle are providing their residents with ARRA information on easy to navigate web pages, with plenty of information, even video and places for citizen and community feedback.

Oh and why didn’t the city’s Web site make any mention of this month’s digital TV switch? Most major cities have. Indianapolis didn’t. Why?

See ‘ya next week!

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or by e-mail at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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