The 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly came to an end just a few weeks ago with the final passage of our state's next two-year budget. Months of deliberations have led to a budget that's honestly balanced, retains adequate reserves, invests in our priorities and returns hundreds of millions of dollars in tax relief to Indiana residents. This includes a 5 percent income tax cut and the immediate elimination of the inheritance tax. Once fully implemented, this will be the largest tax cut in state history.
On top of tax relief that will keep more dollars in the hands of Hoosier families and employers, the budget fully funds vital state services. We've increased funding to promote advanced infrastructure projects by $400 million over the next two years, provided additional resources to Indiana's Department of Child Services and allotted for substantial increases in K-12 education funding. I believe this budget will have far-reaching benefits not only for our state and local economies, but for every Hoosier household.
As one of our state's primary focus points, education funding accounts for more than half of all General Fund spending in the budget. I'm grateful Indiana has been able to restore cuts made to education during the worst of the recession, and I'm excited to see what's next for our students.
Alongside funding increases, the General Assembly has passed several new bills that will help make sure taxpayer dollars are being used in the most effective way to educate our kids. State lawmakers have expanded Indiana's school choice program with House Bill 1003, allowing more income-eligible students to receive vouchers to escape a failing school or attend an institution that better fits their needs.
In addition, Senate Bill 189 promotes innovation and flexibility in our classrooms by exempting schools with proven track records of success from certain mandates so that great teachers and schools aren't held back by red tape. These initiatives are both aimed at putting our students first, ensuring all young Hoosiers get the individualized training they need to succeed.
In higher education, the General Assembly advanced financial aid reform that, similar to K-12 reforms, emphasize student success. House Enrolled Act 1348 encourages students to excel in college by offering extra financial aid dollars to students who earn credits on pace to graduate early.
The better prepared our students are for postsecondary education and the workforce, the stronger our state economy will be in the years to come. This theme has been a guiding force for this year's legislature.
Other key bills passed by the General Assembly to improve schools and job training efforts this session include:
·House Enrolled Act 1002 to unite the state's efforts to employ more Hoosiers by creating an Indiana Career Council with representation from state government, business, labor and education.
·Senate Enrolled Act 465 to create regional Works Councils that will bring together schools and employers to improve vocational education in high schools.
·Senate Enrolled Act 177 to provide in-state tuition to veterans.
This was a productive session, and Hoosiers have a great deal to look forward to – lower taxes, stronger schools and a state government that continues to operate within its means. Indiana's financial responsibility has helped us become one of only six states in the nation with triple-A ratings from every major credit-rating agency. This is just one more strength employers can look to when deciding where to locate or expand.