Opinion and Forefront

PARR: What Indiana should address in 2014

January 18, 2014

Parr
Compared with neighboring states, Indiana is doing well. For that, Hoosiers can be thankful.

But lest we risk falling into a rut and settling for good instead of seeking great, Indiana’s leaders must address several fundamental issues in 2014.

Given how inextricably tied economic well-being and educational success are to a well-functioning society, it is likely these categories will drive many policy debates over the next several months.

At 7.3 percent, Indiana’s unemployment rate is substantially better than Michigan’s 8.8 percent, Kentucky’s 8.2 percent and Illinois’ 8.7 percent. That rate puts us 32nd nationally—interestingly, not all that different from where Indiana ranked before the 2008 crash (28th).

While Hoosiers can be proud that our leaders have done a respectable job of mitigating the incompetence of Washington, D.C., we must also remain cognizant of the definite skills gap in today’s economy.

Coaching legend John Wooden accurately portrayed success as “knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” No one reasonably expects Gov. Pence and the General Assembly to somehow employ thousands of Hoosiers overnight.

Yet, if Indiana is indeed going to go from “good to great”—as is quite possible—the focus of our leaders must be to cultivate an atmosphere conducive to opportunity and success.

An important step to accomplishing a better jobs climate is a continued focus on providing educational freedom to Hoosier families. While Pence correctly asserts that the best atmosphere for a child to spend his years before attending kindergarten is in a stable home, the most basic building block of society, many children do not have that option.

Enabling families, regardless of life’s circumstances, to take advantage of this additional scholastic possibility is the next logical step in providing educational opportunity for all Hoosiers.

The rest of our education system is likewise in need of examination.

Democrats like to point out that Hoosiers sent Glenda Ritz to the Statehouse. Yet, Hoosiers also elected Mike Pence, along with quorum-proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature. These seemingly contradictory facts played out over the last year and, unless one side blinks, will probably portend the discussion over Indiana’s education policy for the foreseeable future.

One of the biggest questions as we move into 2014 is how Obamacare will be received by the American public. Though the issue of expanding Medicare in Indiana is already decided, chances are the end is far from sight. Even given the recent complications with Obamacare, Pence and the Republicans of the General Assembly must still expect pressure by Democrats to re-examine the decision to forgo federal funds.

If we are to take the feds at their word, at best naïve and at worst foolhardy, the expansion would be fully funded through 2016 and 90 percent funded thereafter.

A cursory view of governmental financial programs reveals they take on the inherent largesse and unwieldy nature of excess government. Think Social Security, Medicare, the Great Society and massive government pensions.

Indiana will confront challenges in 2014. With strong leadership and a message focused on growth, opportunity and a bottom-up approach to providing substantial solutions to complex problems, Republicans can continue to make Indiana one of the most envied states in the region.•

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Parr, an Indiana University junior majoring in political science, is president of the IU College Republicans. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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