INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana House Democrats will restore a balance of power at the Statehouse and are prepared to tackle tough issues with Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and a GOP-ruled Senate, House Democratic leader Patrick Bauer said Wednesday.

House Democrats gained at least a 51-49 majority in Tuesday’s election, and it was likely the caucus would again choose Bauer as speaker — a post he held when the party had the same two-seat advantage in 2003 and 2004. Republicans took the chamber in late 2004 and had a 52-48 majority going into Tuesday, but Democrats knocked off four GOP incumbents to help get the gavel back.

Bauer said he had a congenial telephone talk with Daniels Wednesday morning, and appreciated a congratulatory call from House Speaker Brian Bosma late Tuesday night. He said he believed they could all work together over the next two years.

“I can guarantee you one thing — the next budget will be a bipartisan budget,” he said.

Democrats harshly criticized the two-year budget enacted in 2005 by Daniels and a thin GOP-controlled General Assembly. Republicans said it was balanced for the first time in years, but Democrats said it denied funding increases for many school districts and virtually all the new dollars for publics schools overall came from property taxpayers, not the state.

Bauer said the Democrats would seek more money for schools and a nonbinding statewide referendum to gauge public opinion on daylight-saving time and time zones, among other initiatives.

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