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Daniels Quickly Signs New Indiana 2-Year State Budget Bill

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has quickly signed into law a new two-year state budget that lawmakers approved just hours before the current spending plan was to expire.

Daniels signed the bill Tuesday night in his Statehouse office in Indianapolis, about an hour after the Indiana Senate adjourned. The Republican governor says the budget has some flaws but does limit spending to preserve Indiana's reserves.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 34-16 in favor of the plan, which the Democrat-led Indiana House had passed on a 62-37 vote amid impassioned debate earlier in the day.

Lawmakers had faced a midnight deadline to pass a new budget or stopgap funding measure to prevent most of Indiana state government from shutting down.

Here's a look at some features of the budget bill passed by the Indiana General Assembly:

_ Spends about $27.8 billion over the two-year budget cycle. _ Public schools will see an average state funding increase of about 1 percent in the first year and 0.3 percent in the second year. That's less than House Democrats wanted for schools but $54 million more than Senate Republicans provided in their previous version of the budget. _ Includes "trigger'' mechanism so that if the economy improves and state revenues increase above projections, schools would get a share of the extra cash. _ Restores 1 percent cut in operating expenses for higher education made in the fiscal year that was to end on Tuesday. Uses federal stimulus dollars to essentially flat-line future higher education operating costs at 2009 levels over next two years, although Ivy Tech would receive an increase because of large spikes in enrollment. _ Includes bonding authority for numerous university building projects. _ Provides 5 percent increase in state financial aid from current levels. _ Includes no limits on charter schools as some Democrats wanted. _ Includes a pilot program for virtual charter schools, to which Democrats had objected, but allows only 200 students the first year and 500 students the second year. That's a smaller group of students than the Senate Republicans included in their previous version of a budget. _ Keeps $1 billion in reserves at the end of the budget cycle as Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels required. _ Includes a plan to help the struggling Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board by allowing the city to raise its hotel tax and possibly other taxes later if the CIB needs more financial help. _ Funds the CHOICE program for home health care services at $48 million per year. _ Includes funding for public television and state tourism promotion.

Source: Senate Republican fiscal staff.

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