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Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazette

Putting their job policy on the line

Candidates tout ideas to boost employment

Ask a political candidate to name the top three campaign issues, and you’re likely to hear “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Most candidates can do little by themselves to create jobs, but the governor’s office is one where a determined leader can make a difference. As Hoosiers look to Election Day, the job-creation records of its major-party candidates deserve attention. The Great Recession resulted in a loss of almost 87,000 jobs in Indiana between 2008 and today. The state had 146,000 unemployed in July 2007; as of this past July, it was 259,596.

Even more alarming is the declining per-capita income of Hoosier workers. In 2004, Mitch Daniels said he wanted to increase the amount Indiana employees earn compared with U.S. workers overall, but per-capita income during his administration has fallen from 90.8 percent to 86.6 percent of the national average. The state’s percentage growth in per capita income ranked 48th in the nation during that period.

The figures should have voters demanding to know not only how the candidates intend to create jobs, but also what kind of jobs.

Both Congressman Mike Pence, the GOP nominee, and John Gregg, former Indiana House speaker and Democratic nominee, are well versed on jobs issues. Libertarian Rupert Boneham’s jobs platform is based on “creating a business environment that encourages entrepreneurship and business growth.” Libertarians won less than 3 percent of the vote in the 2008 gubernatorial race.

Personal records

In building a case for job creation, Gregg, who served 16 years as a state representative, points to business-friendly legislation approved under his watch.

“I was speaker of the Indiana House when we abolished the inventory tax for small businesses, retailers, auto dealers and farmers,” he said in an email response. “This saved Hoosiers $437 million in property taxes. This cut taxes for business owners throughout Indiana and allowed them to create jobs here.”

Now a partner with Bingham McHale LLP, Gregg said his job-creation record dates to his adolescence.

“I created my first job when I was 15 years old and bought the local soda shop, creating a couple of jobs in my hometown of Sandborn,” he said.

He also notes private-sector job experience with Amax and Peabody coal companies, where “hundreds and hundreds of Hoosiers” were employed in the energy industry, and his post as interim president of Vincennes University.

“We trained the next generation of Hoosiers so that they would have the skills they need to enter the workforce and earn a good living. I also oversaw the completion of a robotics laboratory in the school’s Technology Division, training Hoosier students for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Pence, an attorney and six-term congressman, cites his vote regarding a provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service payments of $600 or more to other businesses as an example of his work in creating jobs.

“I voted in bipartisan fashion to repeal the 1099 requirement in Obamacare,” he wrote in an email response. “The bill will cut bureaucratic red tape and allow Hoosier small businesses to grow their business instead of filing excessive paperwork. It will also save taxpayers $20 billion over the next 10 years and reduce the deficit by $166 million during that time.”

Pence also cited House votes to “open foreign markets to Hoosier exporters” and to keep Chicago-area waterways open. Federal officials proposed closing some to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Pence cited his work in broadcasting as an example of private-sector job creation experience.

“In 1993, I started my own radio show, which was syndicated by Network Indiana in 1994 and aired on 18 stations across the state until 1999,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, I experienced firsthand what it takes to start a business in Indiana.”

Minding the rules

Both candidates promise to reduce regulation.

“I will remove barriers to growth for Hoosier small businesses through comprehensive regulatory reform and streamlining,” Gregg said. “I will work with regulated industries to identify areas of excessive regulatory cost or burden, unrealistic or ineffective rules and unintended consequences.”

He pledges a review of each regulation through a process that includes a cost-benefit analysis and determination that it is “based in science” and “based in Hoosier common sense.”

Asked to offer examples of state regulations standing in the way of job creation, neither Gregg nor Pence cited one.

“I believe every dollar not spent on regulatory paperwork is a dollar that Indiana businesses can spend putting Hoosiers to work,” Pence said. “I’ve proposed a moratorium on all new regulations until existing regulations can be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget to ensure they are the least-costly approach and impose the least burden on job creation. This review can be done at no additional cost to taxpayers, and exceptions will be made for regulations necessary to address emergency health or safety concerns and to comply with federal mandates.”

In an effort to reduce regulation, the General Assembly last year considered a review committee’s recommendation to eliminate licensing requirements for barbers and cosmetologists, prompting a firestorm of protest from those already working in the field.

Gregg said he wouldn’t support eliminating licensing requirements for those fields; Pence proposed crowdsourcing in cases where licensing is under review – soliciting solutions from groups other than those specifically involved.

Job training

Gregg indicated he would emphasize education in workforce development, not retraining.

“Workforce development is vital to growing Indiana’s economy, and the most important thing we can do to guarantee a trained and skilled workforce is to ensure that Hoosiers receive an education that will prepare them to compete in the global economy,” he said. “We need to ensure that all Hoosiers graduate from high school either career ready or college ready.”

Pence offered an almost identical response.

“I believe that job training can begin in Indiana high schools across the state,” he said. “The time has come to make career, technical and vocational education a priority in every high school in Indiana. … In addition, we cannot forget that the educational attainment of Indiana’s workforce directly impacts the state’s ability to attract and retain employers and high-growth, high-wage jobs.”

Factory mentality

Both candidates expressed confidence in Indiana’s manufacturing future.

“Manufacturing has always been a large part of Indiana’s economy, and I believe that moving forward, it will continue to provide good-paying jobs for Hoosier families,” Gregg said. “I have proposed a re-shoring initiative that gives companies a tax credit for bringing manufacturing jobs back to Indiana. In recent years, companies have started to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, and Indiana needs to be at the forefront in bringing them here.”

He said he will make it a priority to match veterans with Indiana manufacturers.

Gregg cites goals of increasing the state’s exports by 50 percent and the number of Hoosier exporters by 30 percent over the next five years.

“I like to say that in Indiana, we do two things: we grow things, and we make things,” Pence said. “We have announced plans to accelerate commercialization of new technologies and attract new businesses through … a partnership with life sciences companies and Indiana’s world-class research universities. We have proposed ideas to open new markets for Hoosier manufacturers and farmers. ... Our 10 percent, across-the-board tax cut will help our manufacturers, particularly those with smaller operations. And we have offered policies that will help Indiana residents and companies maintain reliable and low-cost energy by updating and enhancing the state’s energy plan.”

Gregg expressed little confidence in Indiana’s new right-to-work law, which he opposed.

“Indiana tried this once, in the 1950s, and we found that it did not work then,” Gregg said. “I believe the same will be the case now.”

Pence supported the law.

“Making Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state is a victory for economic freedom and Hoosier workers. I believe that ensuring freedom in the workplace will make Indiana an even better place to do business and help create new jobs for Hoosiers.”

The wage issue

Both candidates acknowledged Indiana’s wage gap compared with that of other states.

“We need to create more jobs here in Indiana, but we also need to look at the type of jobs we are seeking,” Gregg said. “In recent years we have expended too many state resources competing for jobs that do not pay a good wage. As governor, I will use our economic development dollars to attract companies that pay a good living wage that Hoosiers can use to raise a family, not those that pay poverty-level wages. I will not spend one tax dollar attracting poverty wage-level jobs. We will go after high-skill, high-paying jobs.”

Pence noted that his focus has been on attracting high-wage jobs.

“Our 12 policy announcements have focused on high-wage, high-growth job creation,” he said. “Through a 10 percent personal income tax cut, a freeze on new regulations for Hoosier businesses, and plans to improve Indiana education and increase innovation, we believe Indiana can become one of the leading states in the Midwest and one of the fastest-growing state economies in America.”

Karen Francisco has been an Indiana journalist since 1982 and an editorial writer at The Journal Gazette since 2000. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by email,