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Earlier this month, Indiana closed the books on fiscal year 2013. The state continues to operate well within its means, banking a structural surplus of $493 million in the fiscal year and maintaining a reserve of nearly $2 billion. While the state’s finances offer encouragement, they don’t tell the whole story.
The state’s strong fiscal position is seemingly at odds with the status of working Hoosier families.
According to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the average Hoosier earned $36,902 in 2012, a per capita income that ranked 39th nationally.
In a recent report, The Indiana Institute of Working Families found Hoosier households earn nearly 13 percent less today than they did at the beginning of the decade and the state’s unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the Midwest.
Many of our neighbors know firsthand the acute difficulties these numbers reflect.
As lawmakers, we must strike the appropriate balance between strong fiscal stewardship and acting to put Hoosiers back on the path toward financial security. During the 2013 legislative session we took some positive strides.
Like the governor, I believe roads lead to jobs and worked to direct over $100 million in additional funding for local governments to address backlogged infrastructure projects.
Likewise, I backed legislation to align statewide career training systems and job skills development with the existing and future needs of the state’s job market.
We can do more. We can reinvest in our children’s education. Indiana’s budget surplus is partly built on cuts to the state’s public schools over the last two budget cycles.
While some have claimed the upcoming budget has reversed this trend, the fact remains that more than half the state’s schools were budgeted less in 2015 than they were in 2011.
Local school corporations are feeling the pinch. From Cannelton City Schools to North Harrison Community School Corporation to Perry Central Community School Corp., all told, 11 school corporations in our area will receive less state funding in 2015 than they received in 2011.
There are no shortcuts to a stronger Hoosier economy. We must continue to maintain the steady fiscal hand that has kept our state’s finances in the black. It is clear, however, that something must be done to help more Hoosier working families climb back into the middle class.
I will continue to advocate for making targeted investments to boost employment in the short term and ensuring our children and grandchildren have access to the best education possible.
These ideas together will help put both the state and families on the path toward prosperity.
As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas on the issues that matter most to you. Please contact me at (800) 382-9467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young represents Perry County in the Indiana Senate.