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With deadline looming, lawmakers shift from religious freedom to state budget debate

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 8, 2015) - The state budget agency reported Wednesday tax revenues fell short of March projections.

The report comes as lawmakers face a looming end-of-session deadline to finish crafting the state budget in three weeks.

Nearly a week removed from the religious freedom fight, thrusting Indiana into the national spotlight, lawmakers are looking to shift focus.

“We have a budget,” State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) said. “We have a lot to do in the next two or three weeks.”

Arguably the most significant policy issues remain unfinished – the state budget and public school funding – to name two.

Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin earnestly debating the budget.

“We need to move forward in lots of ways,” State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said, who chairs the appropriations committee. “We’ve got that behind us, and I think we’ve done the right thing there, so it’s time to take care of the other state’s business and move forward.”

Lingering, though, is a sense of bewilderment over the religious freedom law and its national exposure.

“The partisan divide is still there, Republicans still hold a supermajority,” Laura Albright said, a political science professor at the University of Indianapolis. “I think they may change the way they approach things, as you mentioned, with the tone. They may try and frame things in a different way, but it’s still the same people in the seats.”

To help craft the state budget, the April revenue forecast is expected to be released in the next week or so.

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