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By LLOYD ARNOLD
District 74 State Representative
The third week of session was defined by Gov. Pence’s first State of the State address. He touched on many things that have and will impact Indiana, what we have achieved and what we still have to do.
As I said last week, Indiana is entering a new era of leadership under Gov. Pence and Lt. Gov. Ellspermann, and Tuesday night we were given a clearer picture of their administration’s priorities.
Gov. Pence stressed that Indiana is made up of people from all walks of life, and we need to consider our diversity as a great strength in moving forward as a state. Open discussion and debate is needed to make the best public policy decisions, and I know that it is something the House chamber does well in serving Hoosiers. The discussions I have had with Hoosiers throughout our district and state is that jobs are the top priority.
The General Assembly is focused on bringing more high-demand, high-wage jobs to our state and preparing Hoosiers to fill them. Indiana is one of only nine states with a triple-A bond rating, and the plan is to keep that secure by passing a two-year balanced budget this session. Fiscal integrity is the cornerstone of a growing economy.
Indiana has been well-served, ahead of neighboring states and much of the country, in attracting economic-development projects because of the certainty established in our state’s marketplace from having a balanced budget.
Gov. Pence signed a moratorium on any new regulations with the design to give Hoosier employers more freedom to run their businesses. He stated that government does not create jobs, other than government jobs, but government can create the conditions where people can be the risk takers, innovators and workers who will create the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow.
Gov. Pence’s budget makes a commitment to Indiana’s military men and women. That commitment comes in the form of an increased investment in job training and certifying veteran service officers. There is also a goal to obtain three percent of state contracts from veteran-owned businesses. These are measures I support, telling our veterans that we recognize their noble efforts in protecting the freedoms we most dearly cherish.
As the father of four boys, I was very happy to hear the governor’s emphasis on Indiana’s education system. In October, 207 Indiana schools received the highest school ranking for the first time.
He stressed that this came from the commitment and excellence our teachers demonstrate on a daily basis and from Indiana’s accountability system, which incentivizes continual growth and improvement.
Gov. Pence highlighted the House’s legislation regarding the creation of a pilot program for pre-kindergarten education. He also spoke on expanding tuition tax deductions, removing the prior year requirement and lifting means testing for foster, adopted, special needs and military families.
Gov. Pence and many in the General Assembly agree that it is time to make career, technical and vocational education a priority in every high school in Indiana.
The expansion of career and technical education will provide more opportunities for Hoosier students who have a desire to join the workforce out of high school, giving them the tools to make the most of their future.
The proposed Regional Works Council will work with business and educators across the state to develop regional, demand-driven programs to bring high-quality career options to more Hoosiers in high school.
I made it a clear priority from day one that my focus is on jobs and education. Gov. Pence made those same points known in his address this week.
Hard-working Hoosiers across the state are looking for their next step in life, and we are driven to help provide more opportunities for them here in Indiana.