Indiana’s Conservative Leaders Can Show Us the Way
Liberal states are drifting further apart from states with conservative leaders when it comes to fiscal policy. Mark Peters in the Wall Street Journal gives extensive coverage to the recent budget package Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed in to law last week. The Drudge Report featured Peters’ piece, “States Rift on Taxes Widens.” In his story, Peters’ notes why Democrats felt the tax increases were needed:
The new money will expand full-day kindergarten, as well as allow for the college tuition freeze and scholarships for preschool programs. The money also is going to economic-development projects, from expanding the Mayo Clinic to building a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.
While the Wall Street Journal does an excellent job covering fiscal policy issues, in this case Peters set up an excellent comparison without giving his readers any contrast.
Let’s look at Indiana compared to Minnesota on each of these points. Many school corporations offer full-day kindergarten and the state funds a grant program that provides assistance to school corporations who need financial help to offer the program. Our current public policy environment as it relates to full-day kindergarten is miles ahead of where Minnesota was in terms of making it available to families who want to participate. According to an RTV-6 report from last year, 351 of Indiana’s public school corporations had a full-day kindergarten program or plans to implement on this past academic year. The additional funding did not require additional “revenue enhancements” from our conservative leaders.
The tuition freeze at state higher education institutions doesn’t require bending over backwards to meet the demands of college administrators, but getting good, capable conservative leadership at these institutions that puts our students first and focuses on preparing them to enter an ever more demanding workforce. Former governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels made headlines earlier this year when he announced plans to freeze tuition at Purdue for the next two years. Daniels’ proposal was just passed by the Purdue University Board of Trustees last week – we can only hope that other state institutions will follow his lead! In spite of strong leadership from Daniels, other institutions (most notably University of Southern Indiana) were able to get their legislative delegations to hold their budget vote hostage unless they got more funding – again, without tax increases.
Finally, in spite of reservations from some legislators regarding the use of special tax districts, the legislature did create a district that would funnel tax revenue, up to $5 million each year, to help pay for $100 million of improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the state’s iconic sports venues. Regardless of how you feel about the fact the state is involved with these improvements, you can’t argue that the project was funded without increasing income taxes.
In fact, all of these priorities are receiving funding from the state in spite of the fact that legislators passed a budget that LOWERS income tax on Hoosiers and eliminates the death tax on Hoosier taxpayers permanently. I get so frustrated that the media portrays conservative leaders who don’t agree with these priorities as keeping them from getting done – when the reality is the work is getting done in spite of not agreeing with these priorities. Our legislative session was not without its warts, but those disagreements produced a conservative budget that still addresses funding for programs we don’t necessarily agree with. Daniels is also showing the country that there is another way to provide higher education in this country – an example that the rest of the state, and the country for that matter, would do well to follow.