State funding for Columbus Learning Center makes it into the state budget, but Lauer had to work for it

Pictured are the exteriors of the IUPUC building and the Columbus Learning Center on Oct. 26, 2017. IUPUC will host a youth civics engagement program in June.

INDIANAPOLIS — The final state budget signed into law last week includes provisions that benefit the Columbus Learning Center.

The $44 billion budget, signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb, includes about $10.15 million over the next two years to help the Columbus Learning Center help pay off debt and continue operations, according to a copy of the final version of the budget. It also includes a provision that extends the state’s sublease of the facility for another 10 years.

The Columbus Learning Center, located at 4555 Central Ave., is home to the campuses of Ivy Tech, IUPUC and Purdue Polytechnic. The state subleases the building to create opportunities for universities and others to host classes in the facility.

Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, said the provisions included in the budget were the result of “a lot of meetings, including with the team of lawmakers tasked with drafting the budget, with many “twists and turns” along the way.

Rep. Ryan Lauer

“It was a lot of talking and convincing and really pushing to make sure that we continued to support the Columbus Learning Center,” Lauer said.

Lauer previously had authored a bill this session that included funding for the Columbus Learning Center and an extension of the sublease. Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and Rep. Jennifer Meltzer, R-Shelbyville, signed onto Lauer’s bill as co-authors.

The bill, HB 1092, was referred to the House Ways and Means committee on Jan. 9 but never made it past the committee and on to the House floor for consideration.

But six weeks later, when House Republicans unveiled the initial version of the state budget, they include a line item that provided the funding for the Columbus Learning Center. However, the initial version of the budget did not include the provision that extended the sublease, state records show.

Lauer said he then started meeting with his colleagues in the house, including Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, who chairs the House ways and means committee and authored the state budget bill, to “emphasize that the lease language was critical.”

“It was a scramble to go to my colleagues, go to leadership, work with the chairman,” Lauer said. “…(There were) a lot of conversations, a lot of hard work over a couple of weeks to emphasize that the lease language was critical to keep the Columbus Learning Center in full operation past 2025.”

On Feb. 22, Thompson proposed an amendment that, among other things, added language from Lauer’s bill on extending the state’s sublease of the building to the proposed budget. The amendment passed by voice vote and was included in the final version that Holcomb signed into law.