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Ways and Means committee gets new leader

INDIANAPOLIS – Crawfordsville emergency room doctor Rep. Tim Brown will take over as the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma announced the appointment Tuesday, along with a budget-writing leadership team.

“This job is a daunting one,” he said while praising outgoing Ways and Means Chair Jeff Espich, of Uniondale.

Bosma said after 15 years mired in the financial details of the state, Espich made it look easy.

Brown has served in the Indiana House since 1994, largely focusing on health-care issues such as the smoking ban.

Bosma said his expertise will be needed when facets of the federal health-care act come before the legislature.

Brown joked, “What have I got myself into?” when introduced at the news conference.

He said the biggest problem writing a budget is prioritizing, which starts with K-12 education spending.

As for a major tax cut pushed by Gov.-elect Mike Pence? Brown said lawmakers will receive revenue forecasts in December and April that will go a long way in deciding whether the state can afford the proposal.

“We will continue to debate it during the process,” Brown said.

One Ways and Means subcommittee chairman hails from northeast Indiana – Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, will shepherd local government finance issues.

Also Tuesday, House Democrat Leader Scott Pelath appointed Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, as the ranking minority member of the powerful committee. Porter previously served on the education committee.

“I believe that we have many opportunities to pass legislation that balances the need to return some of our state’s $2 billion surplus to Hoosier families with a desire to restore some of the funding that has been taken from our schools and those agencies within state government that provide critical services to many people across Indiana,” Porter said.

“I am particularly sensitive to the financial blows that public schools have taken in recent years. I would like to think that we can do something to restore some of the funding that has been cut in recent years.”

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