STATEHOUSE (Jan. 7, 2009) — Times are tough, but House Republicans’ guiding principle will be to put Hoosier families first. As great as the challenges are, the opportunities for the future are equally great, and the Republicans’ agenda positions the state for a strong, aggressive recovery.
“Indiana faces significant but not insurmountable challenges,” said Republican Leader Brian C. Bosma. “It is our duty to meet them head-on. While the challenges are great, I truly believe that out of great challenges come great opportunities. Our job is to position Indiana so that when the recovery occurs, Indiana is prepared to come out faster and progress further than ever before. We head into this session fully aware of the stress on families’ checkbooks. That knowledge will guide everything we do.
“Through Gov. Mitch Daniels’ leadership and discipline, Indiana is in better fiscal shape than most other states, and our intent is to keep it that way so that, when the turnaround is in full swing, Indiana will be among the nation’s leaders.”
House Republicans’ legislative agenda for the 116th General Assembly is will focus on three areas — taxpayer protection, job creation and education reform.
- Taxpayer Protection. No tax increases. No gimmicks. Just a lean, common-sense balanced budget that keeps state government operating efficiently and holds the line on spending. When Republicans held the House majority in 2005, the General Assembly passed the state’s first balanced budget in a decade, so honestly balanced budgets are nothing new to the caucus.
House Republicans will balance every program, every initiative and every idea against advancing the state’s economy and the best interests of Hoosier taxpayers. It is also imperative for the state to protect our state’s fiscal reserves and Rainy Day Fund. Given the uncertainty of today’s economy stripping the state’s resources in 2009 would be imprudent.
The legislature also should maintain the local spending caps put in place last year, which should give local officials the creative energy to find ways to be more efficient and effective with local property taxes.
Another way the General Assembly can help Hoosier families in tough times is by keeping the legislature’s “cut now, cap forever” promise. We must pass the constitutional property tax caps. In the 2008 session, the General Assembly passed landmark property tax relief and reform legislation as well as Senate Joint Resolution 1, the proposed constitutional amendment that would cap property taxes at 1 percent of a home’s assessed value. Approval in this session would place the proposal on the November 2010 general election ballot, allowing Hoosiers to adopt the caps into the Indiana Constitution. The taxpayers of our state deserve that opportunity.
- Job Creation: Focus on the Future. Indiana has been a leader in the Midwest at attracting new jobs, and we will continue to aggressively seek high-paying, quality jobs for every Hoosier. House Republicans believe the best way to attract jobs is to let employers know they are welcome. We also must make sure we do not harm the businesses that are already established here. That means no new general business taxes and no new burdensome regulations. Tough economic times are the wrong time to burden employers further.
We must review and enhance the job creation initiatives of 2005-2008 so that we can continue the gains we have already made. Our focus must be on recovery, and among the initiatives we can undertake are to create the framework for that recovery. We can give local governments the option to eliminate personal property tax for tech parks, and we can establish a Hoosier Business Renewable Energy Tax Credit; both could begin in 2011.
Indiana is a national leader in job attraction, and we intend to keep it that way. We can continue to attract and welcome employers with our strong incentives and willing workforce, and we can create an infrastructure for the future, so that when the recovery happens, Indiana can be the leader in attracting great jobs.
- Education Reform: Competing in the 21st Century: The Hoosier State has bright students, solid, innovative teachers and concerned parents, and House Republicans believe they all deserve support.
While education funding will be tight, reprioritization of existing funds can make a difference. Currently, about 61 percent of education spending makes its way to Hoosier classrooms. That percentage should be increased to at least 65 percent. More dollars sent to the classroom means better-paid, more proficient teachers and smaller class sizes. This is an investment in Indiana’s future, especially since education is a proven economic development tool.
Teacher excellence should be rewarded as well. Teachers who voluntarily take and pass competency tests in their specific teaching areas should receive bonus pay of $5,000. The legislature should create the framework for this initiative so that it can be funded in 2011.
In the search for excellent education, parents should have options available to them, especially if their schools struggle to reach state standards. We must preserve charter schools and protect parental choice.
Indiana high school students who graduate with at least a “B” average deserve a boost if they want to further their educations. The General Assembly should create the scholarship infrastructure to adequately reward our best and brightest, to be funded in 2011.
For all of this to work, a classroom environment should be the best it can be. Part of a successful educational environment is a well-behaved and respectful classroom. Hoosier teachers deserve protection for their good-faith efforts to maintain order and discipline in their classrooms.
“House Republicans have consistently announced our legislative agenda before the General Assembly begins,” Rep. Bosma said. “We believe we have a duty to chart our course for the session and to let Hoosiers know our legislative intent and what we believe in.
“This will be a challenging session. But it can be a rewarding session as well. House Republicans have broad shoulders, and we are not afraid to work. Our agenda is to save Hoosier families money now and in the future, keep our engines of commerce running strong and maintain the hope of an even brighter future through top-quality education.”