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Republicans say 2023 session delivered generational investment; Democrats say more was needed

A sculpture outside the Indiana Statehouse, at night. The semi-circle artwork is lit up internally, with the Statehouse in the background.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
The 2023 session wrapped up in the early hours of Friday, April 28, with the passage of a new state budget.

Republicans hailed the 2023 legislative session as one that saw “generational investments” in education, health care and economic development.

Democrats wonder how much more could and should have been done.

Public and mental health care initiatives received unprecedented investment – but not close to the projected need to help improve Indiana’s health outcomes.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) said it's a strong start.

"Excited to see what those outcomes look like and see what the counties and providers do," Huston said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb called the session’s accomplishments a “blueprint for growth.”

“To strengthen an already strong state person by person, community by community," Holcomb said.

K-12 education saw $1.5 billion more in spending this year – much of it going toward a dramatic expansion of private school vouchers.

And for Democrats like House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne), school voucher expansion overshadowed any other gains. The changes to the program will allow a family of four earning up to $220,000 a year to get taxpayer funds to help pay for private school.

“Public education seems to be kind of an afterthought these days,” GiaQuinta said.

READ MORE: Budget turmoil at session's end delivers $312 million more for K-12 schools

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.

Democrats said the 2023 legislative session didn’t focus enough on what Indiana really wants and needs to get stronger.

The legislature made record investments but also advanced attacks on transgender Hoosiers and, in Sen. Greg Taylor’s (D-Indianapolis) view, spent too much money on private school vouchers at the expense of public schools.

“There’s a lot of accounts like that that are going to keep popping up year after year after year until the voters in the state of Indiana decide, no more,” Taylor said.

While Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) praised the accomplishments of the session, he said the biggest win for Hoosiers is the work lawmakers did to try to lower health care costs.

“I think that has the ability to help Hoosiers across the state, in every corner of our society,” Bray said.

The governor will finish signing the bills of the 2023 session into law in the coming days.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.