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Indiana House Panel Approves Budget

By a party line vote of 15 to 8, a Republican-led Indiana legislative committee has approved a new, two-year state budget. The spending plan advanced Friday by the House Ways and Means Committee keeps overall education funding at current levels but diverts more money toward school districts with growing enrollments.It does not cut higher education funding by three percent as suggested by Governor Mitch Daniels, but limits tuition increases and cuts spending he proposed for building projects.Committee Chairman Jeff Espich says he expects the budget to be adjusted as it makes its way through the statehouse."I am not going to say this is a work in process, I don’t consider it that. But I do say its early in the process, and there are lots of things to happen yet, lots of ideas to be considered, changes to be made. And hopefully include revenues between now and april that we can spend a little more money on thing that we believe in," he said.The committee defeated an amendment proposed by Democrat Scott Pelath to remove the governor’s power to withhold funds allocated in the budget."It’s no longer a budget, it’s something that’s dropped in a suggestion box. The governor has not used it to prevent deficits. He’s used it to use and spend and withhold the public’s resources in any way that he personally sees fit," Pelath said.Republicans say the governor needs to be able to make cuts in mid-budget when revenues fall below expectations.The budget now heads to the full House for consideration.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.