Goshen News, Goshen, IN

State News

March 15, 2014

Victories tempered by Senate, budget concerns

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence and House Republicans entered the 2014 legislative session with big plans for education, taxes and roads, but they often found themselves running into Senate roadblocks.

By the end of their 10-week stint, lawmakers had delivered Pence much of what he sought, but in much smaller pieces than he first pressed for. And because Pence's agenda matched up closely with that of House Republicans, the two often found themselves locking arms against the Senate.

One of the first indications of trouble was on an issue that has won broad support among Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation: early childhood education.

Through the middle of the session, it appeared likely that Pence's preschool pilot plan might be tabled so lawmakers could study the issue over the summer first. Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told Pence early on that he would have trouble winning new spending in year in which tax collections have lagged and there was no budget up for consideration.

Lawmakers ultimately approved a preschool plan in the final hours of the session, but it relies on Pence finding money through budget cuts and private donations. A summer study committee also will examine the best options for preschool.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, explained the Senate Republicans' approach, which he said involved "doing it deliberately, cautiously and not just saying, 'Well this has just gotta be done.'

"There's some evidence out there that some states have not had the success they hoped for. If we're going to do this in Indiana, we're going to make sure it works and it works correctly," he said.

Democrats who were seeking a more expansive preschool program -- Senate Democrats proposed funding a state-run plan rather than using vouchers -- were critical of the victory lap Republicans took at the close of session.

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