Lieutenant governor candidates debate farm issues

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The three candidates for Indiana lieutenant governor are talking about supporting Indiana's rural communities with strategies ranging from building better roads to improving health care.

Democrat Vi Simpson, Libertarian Brad Klopfenstein and Republican Sue Ellspermann met Wednesday afternoon at the Indiana State Fair for possibly their only debate before the November elections. Ellspermann is running with Republican Mike Pence; Simpson with Democrat John Gregg; and Klopfenstein with Libertarian Rupert Boneham.

Farm issues play a central role in the duties of Indiana's lieutenant governor, who also serves as the state's agriculture secretary. The debate was hosted by the AgriInstitute.

All three candidates praised outgoing Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman for her leadership through the ongoing drought and for her efforts promoting agricultural exports. Gov. Mitch Daniels is term-limited from seeking re-election in November and Skillman opted against running again.

Ellspermann stuck to a tight script throughout the hourlong debate, sticking to talking points the Pence campaign has relied on throughout the campaign. Answering a question about how a Pence administration would pay for road and bridge improvements in rural Indiana, Ellspermann said the state needs to rely on more public-private partnerships.

"The Pence administration will help us to take the resources we have and leverage those across the state using some of the new tools we have, the public private partnerships," she said.

Public-private partnerships, or "P3s" are being tested throughout the state. The benefit includes relying on private money to build roads and bridges, but motorists still foot the bill by paying tolls under plans like one floated to replace the New Harmony bridge this summer.

Simpson, a 28-year veteran of the Indiana Senate, hit Pence, albeit indirectly, for being a part of a Congress that left Washington earlier this month without approving a federal farm bill. She also got in somewhat subtle jabs at Daniels for budget cuts that stripped rural priorities including increased health care access.

"I carried legislation a few years ago to create that program, unfortunately it hasn't been funded un the last few years, we'd like to see it funded," she said.

While Simpson got in most of her digs on Republicans, Klopfenstein saved his sharpest criticism for Democrats. After Simpson chastised Pence for being part of a Congress that couldn't pass a federal farm bill, Klopfenstein hit back saying it shouldn't be called a "farm" bill because of the amount of money that goes to the federal food stamp program included in it.

"She said that we need to pass the ag bill. Absolutely not. Let's rename it the food stamp bill," Klopfenstein said.

Wednesday's debate was the only scheduled meeting of the three picks for lieutenant governor and was the first debate of the governor's race.


  • Farm Bill
    The House themselves are looking at better stopping self-serving abusive items and cutting costs to insure our country has a better future with hopefully less debt. The majority of the leaders in the House understand that potentially all bills which come up for renewal need to be closely reviewed and have any extraneous trash eliminated to cut costs. Also they seem to better understand that items needed should be in separate bills and not have a Farm Drought issue hampered by SNAP food stamp bickering. The Senate has not passed a budget and before any Senator plays any “petty party blame game” they should first insure that any extraneous trash is cleaned from the Senate Farm Bill. The Senate Farm Bill wants to in essence “grandfather” rural communities who no longer qualify as rural and are self-sufficient. The purpose of rural programs is to help very small struggling communities grow and become self-sufficient, not to become a Welfare System for self-sufficient communities who have already received past benefits wanting more. Our Country and Citizens can no longer afford such self-serving actions being added to current or future legislation. Ladies and gentlemen our country is broke and going more broke by the minute. We need individuals to stand up and make tough decisions and we ourselves need to be willing to offer to our legislator options regarding what we feel is necessary and what we truly believe can be cut. If we have legislators who are going to play any “blame games” when they have their own legislative trash in bills within their own backyard, then potentially they need to be replaced with someone who is willing to make the tough choices. We can no longer afford to continue down this socialism path which is causing chaos in European countries overseas. Our founding fathers knew the best government was a Republic which offered freedom of choice, the question then becomes, “How wise were the choices made?” Our government backed by We the People can either make or break this great Nation depending on our choices made and how they affect us both now and in the future. Let's please choose wisely ...

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.