INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana’s governor signed a new two-year budget Monday and pledged to work
to restore some of the money lawmakers trimmed from his proposal to boost
funding for the state’s child welfare agency if the amount ends up being
Eric Holcomb signed the budget during a Statehouse ceremony, five days after
lawmakers approved it to end this year’s legislative session.
adopted by the GOP-dominated Legislature trimmed $70 million from Holcomb’s
request for an additional $572 million over the next two years toward
allowing the state’s troubled Department of Child Services to keep hundreds
of new caseworkers.
Holcomb sought that
money to match a boost of $286 million, or about 40 percent, that his
administration transferred to the agency last year amid complaints about it
being unable to handle a jump in the number of abused or neglected children
cases blamed on more drug-addicted parents.
writers say the lower funding level is possible because caseloads in the
agency are improving.
Agency reports to
legislators show that its number of open cases grew by 23% over two years to
reach nearly 29,000 in 2017. That declined by 17.5% to about 23,700 at the
end of January.
Holcomb said during
a news conference after Monday’s signing ceremony that he believed the
agency received what it needed in the budget but that he would be watching
“We have made
progress,” Holcomb said. “If we get into a fix, I will do what I did last
time and we will make sure that DCS is fully funded should those numbers
take a turn.”
The state budget
plan approved last week in votes along party lines projects that the state
will end up with about $2 billion in cash reserves, which would amount to at
least 11.5 percent of state spending.
maintain the reserves protect the state in case of an economic recession and
encourage continued business growth, while Democrats argue those figures are
unnecessarily high and were reached by ignoring important needs - such as
fully funding the child welfare agency.
are required, but artificially bloated reserves that come at the expense of
so many important programs, organizations and people are contrary to the
state’s primary goal of meeting the needs of its citizens,” said Senate
Minority Leader Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson.