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HETRICK: Here’s my answer to the governor’s fundraising letter

August 24, 2013

A few weeks ago, I received what looked like a personal letter from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

I know it was a form letter. I know the return address was state Republican headquarters. I know it was signed by a machine.

But it arrived on “Governor Mike Pence” letterhead. It started off “Dear Mr. Hetrick.” So I took it personally.

In his letter, the governor said, “I have made job creation the highest priority of my governorship.”

Can’t argue with that. I like jobs.

He said he is following the Roadmap he brandished during his campaign.

He said, “I have the six goals of the Roadmap listed on a large chart on an easel I keep next to my desk.”

Great way to stay focused.

He said, “The six goals listed on the Roadmap are: increasing private sector employment, attracting new investment in Indiana, improving math and reading skills of elementary school kids, increasing high school graduation rates, improving the quality of the Hoosier workforce, and improving the health, safety and well-being of Hoosier families, especially children.”

At this point, I grew skeptical.

He said, “All of these goals make up the overall aim of my administration—to make Indiana the state that works.”

More skepticism.

Then he said something curious. He said, “I want to see positive outcomes as measured by independent sources. And I want to be held accountable for those results.”

My B.S. detector tingled.

Then, he said that because “special interests” will be attacking him over these worthy goals, he had to ask for money.

In one paragraph, he asked me for “$50, $100, $250, $500 or more.” In the next, he asked for “$1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000 or even more.”

“With your support,” he said, “we can make Indiana an example for other states.”

My B.S. detector blared. I understand the need for such appeals. I understand their partisan perspective. But I don’t understand complete departures from reality, or logic leaps as wide as the Grand Canyon.

While Pence’s sermon sounds good, the preaching doesn’t jibe with the practicing.

If jobs are Job 1, why are we wasting time and money on divisive social issues and meddling with local government?

If we discriminate against gay people in our state constitution—against the wishes of major employers, local governments, economic-development officials and millions of citizens—how will that help attract and retain employers and workers?

Yet in a nation where constitutional amendments grant rights, our “jobs-are-my-first-priority” governor recently reiterated his support for a referendum to deny equal rights in our state constitution.

If we eliminate four at-large seats on the Indianapolis City-County Council, or block the right of central Indiana voters to control their own mass-transit destiny, how will that help create jobs?

Yet the General Assembly did both, and Governor “Jobs” signed off on the death knell for the four council seats (all held by Democrats).

If Indiana pulls out of the multistate “Common Core” educational standards and assessments, will a go-it-alone approach fulfill the “measured by independent sources” standard the governor set?

Yet, in announcing Indiana’s withdrawal from the Common Core consortium, Pence said, “I firmly believe it is the right and responsibility of the state to make independent, fiscally responsible decisions regarding standards and assessments.”

So much for independent sources. And we’ve seen in the A-F school grading fiasco of former state superintendent Tony Bennett what can happen when the state is left to its own fudge-the-numbers devices.

If Indiana ranks 49th out of the 50 states for per-person spending on public health, and if we fail to expand Medicaid in order to participate in Obamacare, and if we deny hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers health care in the process, and if we decline millions of federal dollars by going it alone, how does that fulfill the Roadmap objective for “improving the health, safety and well-being of Hoosier families, especially children”? Yet that’s what the governor has signaled he will do.

If the governor wants my $50, $10,000 or more, he’ll have to do more than talk jobs.

He’ll need to show me we’re doing everything possible to create jobs: by demonstrating that discrimination has no place in our state and our constitution, by letting local governments decide governance and transportation for themselves, by employing educational standards and assessment tools that are independent and globally comparative, and by investing in human health and health education to save lives and lower employers’ health care costs.

In his letter to me, Gov. Pence said he will be “meeting with Hoosiers and getting their ideas and input on how to make their lives better.”

Now he has mine.•

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Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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