As is the tradition, the first Senate session of the new year kicked off Tuesday with prospective bills being introduced by a clerk in a rapid, almost an auctioneer, style.
“For our new senators who don’t understand what just happened there, that’s the initial introduction of a bill,” President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said.
Long said the Senate will continue to move bills to committee over the next several days. The House convenes for the first time Wednesday. Important bills regarding Indiana’s budget, road funding and K-12 education will be topics of interest in the Senate and the House over the next several months.
Republicans hold a 41-9 majority in the Senate and they have 70 of the 100 seats in the House, which means the GOP can form a quorum for conducting business in both chambers even if Democrats don’t show up.
Despite their lack of strength in numbers, Senate Democrats shared their goals for 2017 during a news conference Tuesday.
“As far as the budget goes, we think our priority is we should find the money to have a more robust, rolled-out, early childhood education,” Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said. “We know it works, we also know — if you attended the early education summit that occurred in Muncie, Indiana over the interim — that there is statewide support for this.”
Other Senate Democrat goals include passing a hate crimes act, raising minimum wage, infrastructure repair funding, redistricting and education reforms.
“This is going to be the first session that I remember coming into that the Republicans are advocating for tax increases, and they will be advocating for tax increases,” he said. “This will probably be the most tax-increasing session I’ve ever been involved with. So, I’m going to be interested to hear what their proposals are and how we increase taxes on the citizens of Indiana.”
Lanane said he would like to see a total restructuring of the taxes in Indiana.
“We have had a history of some of the most regressive* taxes in the nation in Indiana,” he said. “Why don’t we take a look at how we can have a more progressive tax structure and maybe get the ordinary citizen a little bit of a tax break instead of giving our tax breaks to the corporations.”
With work still to be done, Lanane said that he would not support any tax increases until more details are released.
“We’ve got a pretty robust agenda that we’d like to pursue,” Lanane said. “As I always tell the members of my caucus, we may not have the votes, but we have the voices.”
*Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to show Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said that Indiana has the most “regressive” taxes in the nation. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the mistake.