Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives have unveiled their agenda for 2014, identifying “five key areas to strengthen Indiana.”
The agenda deserves attention, because in the Indiana General Assembly, the Republican agenda is all that really matters. Democrats don’t have enough votes to stop Republicans when the GOP unites behind a plan.
So let’s look at what Republican House members have in mind this year, using the headings they provided:
• Preparing Kids for their Careers — Republicans point out that 60 percent of Hoosier children ages 3-4 are not enrolled in preschool. Indiana is one of 10 states that does not offer a state-funded pre-K program.
The Republican plan starts cautiously with a pilot program for 1,000 4-year-olds in five counties in 2015. They could receive up to $6,800 for a full-day program and $3,400 for a half-day program.
Estimates say about 25,000 Hoosier 4-year-olds are not currently being served by an early childhood program and could qualify for vouchers if they’re rolled out to the entire state.
• Connecting Crossroads to Communities — Republicans say “a superior statewide transportation system is crucial to Indiana’s economy and future growth.” They say increasing our investment in roads directly provides jobs.
“The time is now to invest this money to better serve Hoosier motorists and key industries like tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, all of which are dependent upon a strong transportation infrastructure network,” House Speaker Brian Bosma says.
This goal could meet opposition from within. The House also increased highway funding last year, drawing criticism from the conservative wing of their own party for overspending.
• Equipping our Workforce — Republicans say that by 2018, an estimated 55 percent of Indiana’s jobs will require some postsecondary education, but only 33 percent of current working-age Hoosiers have an associate’s degree or higher.
Closing that gap in only four years will be a tall order, but we can’t get there unless we start. For northeast Indiana, the nation’s cradle of manufacturing, we hope the GOP plan will include training within easy driving distance of adult students.