I have the privilege of relocating to Indianapolis every year for the Indiana General Assembly legislative session on behalf of the business community in the 10-county northeast Indiana region. As an advocate for area businesses, I have the opportunity to be part of the process from beginning to end. This was my sixth legislative session, and I can honestly say it was like no other.
After reading this newspapers editorial, Making the Grades, published May 5, I thought it was important to provide a balanced report card on the Indiana General Assembly from the perspective of northeast Indianas business community.
The biennial budget is the only issue that requires completion by state statute. After four years of bitter partisanship, the 2013 budget passed with bipartisan support in both chambers – a remarkable success.
The budget delivers the largest tax reduction in the states history, including a 5 percent reduction in the state income tax, elimination of the inheritance tax, and reductions in the corporate and financial institutions tax. While other states are looking at ways to raise taxes and cut programs, Indiana enhanced its AAA bond rating while also increasing funding for infrastructure, roads and bridges by $215 million.
A previous Journal Gazette editorial offered a critique of education legislation but overlooked the $345 million increase in education funding. Indianas legislature this year reaffirmed its commitment to Hoosier youth by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into public schools. The budget also includes $30 million for high-performing schools and teachers. Additional funding for all-day kindergarten provides the educational backbone students need to have a fair shot to compete at grade level.
No longer are school superintendent candidates required to hold a teachers license. This grants local control to school districts to determine the qualifications of the leader they wish to hire. I am excited that a candidate such as Mitch Daniels, who successfully ran a Fortune 500 company, a state economy and currently a nationally renowned public university, can now be a public school superintendent if a community so chooses.
Lawmakers also included record funding for higher education, and they made it easier to transfer credits from two-year to four-year institutions, expanded K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics funding, and increased adult education funding.
JOB CREATION: A-
Encores are difficult in show business – and politics. 2012s passage of the most important jobs bill in a generation made Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state. But important job creation legislation passed this year, and with the support of each caucus leader as author or co-author.
House Bill 1002 established improved communication and collaboration to set a vision for workforce training that can help fill the thousands of Hoosier jobs currently available. The bill offers the opportunity to finally align state resources to benefit the Hoosier workforce.
And the state increased the Skills Enhancement Fund by 35 percent. Thanks to the leadership of northeast Indianas Rep. Kathy Heuer, that funding is now available to train incumbent workers in Indiana.