Indiana lawmakers will have about $2 billion more to use in the new state budget after an updated projection of state tax revenues was unveiled Thursday.
Legislative leaders’ said the new money creates a "unique and amazing and exciting" budget opportunity.
They attribute the big increase in future state tax dollars stems to a few factors: more job stability, higher consumer confidence, a successful vaccine rollout and an influx of federal COVID-19 relief.
And Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said lawmakers now must decide how to spend the additional money.
"This is not a time for us to grow government, but rather a time to make investments that can eliminate debt, pay down pension obligations to free up money that the state can use in the future," Bray said.
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.
The Senate Republican budget already included several one-time spending items, including cash funding of capital projects and paying down some state debt.
Education advocates are already among the loudest voices calling for increased funding with the new money. Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) said the revenue forecast puts within reach a recommendation from Gov. Eric Holcomb's teacher compensation commission that Indiana increase K-12 funding by $600 million per year.
"This is the time to pay down the debt we owe teachers and their students by increasing our investment in the school funding formula," Melton said.
Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said education remains their top budget priority.
“We have confidence that, if we put more dollars toward K-12 [school funding], that those dollars – like they did in 2019 – will get in the hands of teachers,” Huston said.
Lawmakers are aiming to finalize the new state budget by the end of next week.