Economic Concerns Top Ind. Lawmakers’ Upcoming Session
Indiana lawmakers will be dealing with two broad categories of issues when they reconvene next year: Battles they would gladly take on and those they would rather avoid.
Amending Indiana's gay marriage ban into the state constitution and stepping into the continuing education struggles between Republican Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz clearly fall in the latter category, while just about anything they could do to improve the economy would fall into the former.
When House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, outlined House Republicans' top four legislative priorities - early education, road funding, elimination of the personal property tax and closing the jobs "skills gap" - last week the unifying theme was a focus on the state economy.
"These four issues: the skills gap, early childhood education, road funding and fair business taxation must be our priorities this session. It's my hope that we can work together as we did last session to find solutions that Republicans and Democrats can stand together on and say we're moving Indiana in the right direction," Bosma said during lawmakers' "Organization Day", which typically sets the tone for the session.
Indiana received some welcome news Friday, with word that the state unemployment rate had dropped to 7.5 percent - the best it's been since 2008. Pence credited the state's "pro-growth policies of fiscal responsibility" for the drop in the state's jobless rate. And Indiana has maintained a strong balance sheet, from a cash reserve of roughly $2 billion to a "AAA" bond rating shared by just a few other states.
But that fiscal success has not filtered out across the populace, as legislative Democrats often point out.