This week saw the inauguration of Indiana's new governor, Mike Pence, and his introduction of the one bill we must pass in the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly: a two-year state budget.
This was our first chance to see what the new governor feels is important for our state. His priorities tell us how we are going to fund the operations of state government for the next two years.
Based on what we have seen so far, here are my initial thoughts on the budget:
In presenting the document, the governor's people made a big point about it increasing funding for our public schools by 1 percent in each of the next two years.
These negligible increases cannot overcome the financial challenges faced by our school systems.
We can't forget about the fact that state support for these same schools was cut by $600 million over the past four years. I don't think that point has been forgotten by many local people across this state who felt the impact of those cuts in the form of programs that were eliminated and personnel forced out of work.
We must have a recommitment to our traditional school system.
I believe our first priority in education should be to make our schools whole again by restoring the investments promised to them these past few years.
In "Meet Your Legislators" this past Saturday, EVSC Superintendent David Smith confirmed this priority.
This should be the starting point in any discussion of education funding.
I also noticed the governor has included his plan to cut state income taxes for individuals by more than a half-million dollars the next two years.
My feelings are that this tax cut must have full and careful review. Any tax cut approved by the Legislature should meet the goal of both stimulating new jobs and increasing the earnings of the middle class.
These are the people who need the help the most. These are the people whose household median incomes are more than $4,000 behind the rest of the country.
These are the hard working Hoosiers who excite our economy by spending their paychecks on their children, their children's education, food and clothing, home and expensive utilities.
I believe Gov. Pence should have the chance to state his case for his plan before the General Assembly. He has earned that right.
But to date, it has been interesting to see that the most objections to cutting income taxes have come from members of the governor's own party.
For now, the focal point for discussions on the budget will be in the Indiana House of Representatives. Our Ways & Means Committee will be debating it the next few weeks, then all of us in the House will have our chance to talk about it, probably starting in February.