John Zody is chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
The 2016 election year brought an in-depth discussion about the many challenges facing Indiana. And while the national narrative overwhelmed much of that discussion, our state’s problems didn’t go away onNov. 8.
When the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes today, the clock will start ticking for solutions, and it’s time for the elected officials in whom Hoosiers have placed their trust to do the right thing for our state.
It will be imperative that Gov. Eric Holcomb rise above Mike Pence’s shadow and not surrender to the out-of-touch ideologies of the GOP supermajorities. Indiana cannot bear another RFRA or a law that endangers Hoosier women and their families. We cannot face more headlines that would further endanger our Hoosier Hospitality reputation.
We must address the fact that Hoosiers may be clocking in more hours on the job, yet the wages they are paid are not allowing them to get ahead. Let’s stop basing our economic success on an unemployment figure, and instead focus on a long-term plan to grow wages, make them livable and a true reflection of the skills of workers doing the job. Attacks on teachers and Hoosier working families must end if we truly want to move ahead together and see real improvement in the condition of our state.
We must put aside the idea that baby-stepping pre-K expansion is the best practice for our children. Early childhood education works. Period. More than 80 percent of Hoosiers want to see universal pre-kindergarten, and yet there has been no expansion beyond the small pilot program established a few years ago because the Pence administration declined help for an expansion. Party ideology should never come before improving the future of Indiana, and we’ve seen too much of that in recent years.
Improving our state’s crumbling infrastructure is a priority shared by everyone – but how we do it is something that will surely see much debate over the four months of the legislative session as our state’s budget is put together. I am hopeful the governor and legislators will understand that infrastructure improvement is a priority for local government – both urban and rural – and that without bringing local officials to the table, there may never truly be a long-term solution to getting us back to being the true Crossroads of America.
Finally, Hoosiers want to see a return to the ideals and principles we find important to us. Among them, we must finally make full equality a reality. RFRA lingers to this day, and Indiana Democrats will continue fighting until it is fully understood that equality should be a priority. It’s not just a social issue – it is very much an economic one. We need young talent to stay here, or to come back home to our urban and rural communities to become a part of our state’s future so our communities can thrive.
There is still much to do to make sure Indiana is a leader in the 21st century. But to accomplish this goal, we must always remember that Hoosier common sense will always prevail over party lines and ideology. I hope the governor and those in the majority in the General Assembly accept the same principles in the 2017 legislative session. Indiana Democrats will be working each day to make sure voices are heard.