Economy and Economic Development and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Partisanship: The nemesis of progress

March 6, 2006

Like Mayor Bart Peterson's Indianapolis Works legislation last year, Gov. Mitch Daniels' Major Moves bill has become the political football of this legislative season.

The rhetoric and posturing associated with the highway funding bill has been as partisan and irrational as it comes.

It's as if the Democrats who oppose Major Moves are trying to compensate for their party's inability to produce a solution to our state's highways needs during the previous 16 years of Democratic leadership under governors Bayh, O'Bannon and Kernan.

Now that a Republican has come up with a win-win solution for everybody-in his first year in office, no less-Democrats are not only trying to make it as difficult as possible to get it passed, they are actually trying to come up with other ways to get the job done.

Where was all this effort and energy from 1988 through 2004?

I'm not saying the deal was perfect in its original form or that Daniels did enough spade work before bringing the deal to light. Reasonable people can disagree on details, and the governor could've done a better job selling the idea before the General Assembly session. It's the negative tone of the criticism and isolationist rhetoric against "foreign" involvement that worry me the most. Politics, like society in general, has become way too uncivil. Philosophical disagreements are too often delivered with personal venom. It's the same tone that emerged in last year's debate over Indianapolis Works. One would be wise to remember that personal attacks undermine one's credibility. Moreover, we Hoosiers must overcome our protectionist mentality and accept globalization. I wonder how many folks in the General Assembly have read "The World is Flat." If you haven't, you're a little behind the curve. Major Moves is way too important and beneficial to be significantly altered or-worse, yet-set aside this year. The time to act is now on the most significant piece of legislation in a decade.

And wasn't it telling that last week at the National Governors Association conference, Daniels was cornered and chatted up about the deal by governors from several other states? They know a good thing when they see one.

I can just hear them doing the Homer Simpson, "Doh!"

Major Moves' $3.9 billion cash infusion for massive road construction will allow the state to complete significant, needed road improvements necessary to maximize our economic development efforts in transportation, distribution and logistics. Interstate 69 must be included as part of the deal.

The 130,000 jobs created to do all the roadwork and the thousands of jobs that will be spawned because of new business opportunities emerging in its wake will be a key piece in our strategy to help ensure a growing economy for years to come.

The Senate was expected to pass an amended version of the original Major Moves bill (House Bill 1008) late last week and ship the bill off to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two chambers. Ultimately, the final package will retain the key ingredients and be passed into law. At least that's my hope.

Like Major Moves, Indianapolis Works was-and still is-an idea whose time has come. Well, actually, it's overdue. I and others with interest in seeing this city progress have expressed our surprise at how Republicans could so vehemently oppose such a "Republican" idea.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that opposition to both these proposals boils down to politics. Put simply, one party doesn't want to see the other party succeed. That, my friends, is a sad state of affairs, and it certainly will impede our progress.

To ensure our prosperity, we Hoosiers would be wise to begin thinking more in terms of one city, one state, one world-not two parties, too much, too soon.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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