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.
• Cutting Taxes — Despite criticism from local government and school officials, Republican leaders are forging ahead with their crusade to eliminate the personal property tax on business equipment.
Supporters of the plan say Indiana needs to end the tax to compete for business against neighboring states that don’t tax business property,
Republicans are talking about giving each county the option to drop the tax or not. But ending the tax would have a sharply different impact from county to county.
If other taxpayers have to make up the income lost from the business property tax, it would be much more painful in DeKalb and Noble counties than in Steuben and LaGrange counties, for example.
If the tax truly is a statewide problem, it seems more logical to provide a statewide solution, with all Hoosiers sharing the burden equally.
• Stopping Burdensome Regulations — Bosma says “one of our focal points will be removing outdated laws that increase the cost and complexity of both government and business.”
Indiana does not seem like an over-regulated state compared to most of the nation, but we always should be working to keep things simple. We should keep in mind that many regulations arose because someone was abusing the system.
Overall, Republicans have set worthy goals for improving education at both ends of the process — preschool and after high school — and keeping our roads in top condition.
Making these improvements and cutting taxes at the same time sounds like a difficult balancing act, but if the Republicans in Indianapolis can show us how it works, more power to them.
— KPC News
THE ISSUE Agenda set by the Indiana House GOP THEIR VIEW The agenda deserves attention and the party has the pull to get it.