More than half of Indiana's $15.8 billion general spending budget goes to fund the state's K-12 education programs. However, this year local legislators are turning the focus toward younger children.
A portion of the education budget this year will go towards expanding the Pre-K pilot program. The pilot program was launched in 2014 and is designed to help underprivileged kids avoid falling behind academically before they enter elementary school.
"We're very interested in carrying on the Pre-K extension for underprivileged kids," said State Rep. Jerry Torr. "Hopefully that will help somewhat to break the cycle of poverty."
Torr's comments came during Friday's Legislative Breakfast, Updates from the Statehouse, at Conner Prairie.
The program currently serves 2,300 Indiana children, and with the budget increase, will have the potential to double that number.
Additional upcoming legislation will focus on the growing problem of opiate addiction, an issue that is headed by Indiana Sen. Jim Merritt. At a legislative breakfast on Friday, Merritt outlined his plan to battle the drug problem, which has become more and more prevalent in Hamilton County.
"I introduced 19 bills that deal with the opioid struggle, and it's a comprehensive approach where we talk about treatment and we talk about data collection," Merritt said. "We need to know what's in our communities. It's killing our children and our adults. We need to proceed to a detox, treatment, and recovery system in this state.
The addiction bills range from making treatment more affordable for families, to limiting the amount of opiates that can be prescribed to a patient. Federal funding is also available to all states to combat the increased levels of addiction across the country.
"The 19 bills we have are pilot projects. The federal government is throwing money at the states because it's such a problem from Massachusetts all the way to California," Merritt said.
Merritt, along with Torr and others are also focusing on long term funding for the highway and road systems in Hamilton County and the rest of the state.
"The house has shown a lot of courage the past two sessions, looking at our infrastructure," said Merritt. "Anyone who has traveled on our highways and our roads understands that we need a severe focus on it."
Thirty-five percent of the $3.5 billion dedicated spending budget is geared toward transportation throughout the state.
"Our first priority in the caucus is sustainable road funding, hopefully for the next 20 years," said Torr.
More information about additional bills and funding information can be found at www.indianahouserepublicans.com