QUESTION: What is your caucus’ agenda for the 2013 General Assembly?
ANSWER: Our state is in a challenging time, with unemployment hovering above 8 percent and many Hoosiers hopeful that better days are on the horizon. The Indiana Senate Democrats’ 2013 legislative proposals and budget priorities will reflect the principles of rebuilding our economy, schools and local communities.
Small companies mean big business: Indiana has nearly half a million small businesses, and they employ half the private-sector work force. That’s why our jobs proposals will focus not on more tax breaks to big corporations, but on incentives that help local businesses keep employees they have and see greater potential for growth.
Again, we will champion providing tax credits for small businesses that hire new employees and encouraging the hiring of returning veterans. We will also continue to push for requiring collection of online sales tax to level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers. Finally, we believe providing “work-share” programs to help employers retain skilled workers during economic uncertainty will reduce layoffs.
Rebuilding Main Street from the ground up: We support giving local leaders resources and flexibility to make their communities more livable. From repairing roads to maintaining public safety and improving mass transit, these investments will put people back to work.
Local leaders know the critical needs for their communities, and they know where to direct resources for the greatest impact.
Training for tomorrow: We value rebuilding public education, creating a vision that spans pre-kindergarten to higher education. First, our budget priority with respect to education will be restoring nearly $1 billion cut from K-12 education funding in the last two budget cycles.
Second, we want every child in Indiana to have pre-kindergarten education. Finally, we believe taxpayer money going to private educational organizations deserves more oversight and an assurance that the money is used to maximum benefit and on terms of equal opportunity.
Health care reform: Finally, Senate Democrats will push for Indiana to catch up with other states on lowering health care costs, putting the Affordable Care Act to work for Hoosiers. We want to see the state make the most of federal funding to cover uninsured Hoosiers and see that individuals and businesses are taking advantage of new health care tax benefits. Building a health care exchange will be a priority.
These are common-sense issues that truly matter to the citizens of Indiana. You won’t hear the values of creating jobs, improving and supporting education, and investing in local communities called into question on either side of the aisle. Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus look forward to joining our colleagues in the General Assembly and the newly elected governor to accomplish these goals.
Unfortunately, in the past, the majority party in the Senate has veered from these important challenges to devote too much time to divisive social issues.
So I would challenge my colleagues across the aisle to stick to these worthy goals, to not tie the session up in overly emotional “hot button” matters that divide us, and to take up our ideas in a bipartisan fashion that aims to put Hoosiers back to work, provide quality educational opportunities, and move the state forward.•
• Lanane, state Senate Democratic leader, represents District 25, which includes Anderson and Muncie. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.