Editor, Times-Union:

During the past legislative session, there was tremendous pressure to give a large amount of Indiana’s surplus to increase teachers’ pay.

The Journal Gazette and other major papers published numerous editorials urging that action. Red for Ed shut down our schools as 15,000 teachers showed up on organization day to demand more money and doing away with student test scores as part of teacher evaluations. They were successful in two of their demands but not in tapping into the surplus. Here are a couple reasons why.

This budget cycle the General Assembly put $763 million additional money to the schools, along with paying down their pension obligation $150 million, which will save them about $70 million a year going forward. That $70 million yearly savings can be used for increasing pay. This year, the governor intended to pay off $295 million of university buildings that were financed through bonding and authorized last year and this would have yielded many more millions that could be used for teacher pay. He has since put that payment on hold until he sees what the financial hit is because of the pandemic.

My Democrat colleagues offered many amendments to many different bills to drain the surplus, and each time it was rejected by party-line votes. Those votes will be used against the Republicans as another attack on education this fall. We have maintained the surplus is necessary for the next recession or emergency. That emergency is happening now. Indiana’s $2 billion surplus in the general fund and $850 million surplus in the unemployment fund will hopefully get us through this crisis. Can you imagine the necessary cuts and tax increases if we did not have it?

I’m proud to have been a part of a General Assembly that made some good decisions.

State Rep. Dave Wolkins

Warsaw, via email