We are in the middle of a world-wide public health crisis that hasn’t been seen in over a century. This pandemic has brought into focus how poorly our healthcare system functions. While Indiana’s Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) is one of the better Medicare expansion programs in the country under the Affordable Care Act, our entire healthcare system is in desperate need of reform. As your state Senator, I would fight to expand our current HIP 2.0 plan so that more Hoosiers are eligible for coverage – particularly our children who should never be denied healthcare. I would also support the creation of a state-wide public option that would compete with the for-profit health insurance industry and be available to all individuals, families and businesses. We must also address the issue of critical drugs like insulin being priced beyond the reach of those who so desperately need them to survive. As your state Senator, I would make the health and safety of Hoosiers my top priority in our fight to fix our healthcare system.
The United States is ranked #17 in the world on Education and Indiana is ranked #24 nationally. Since the legislature capped the property taxes and took over full responsibility for teacher salaries in 2009, the state general fund budget has grown 21 percent. Indiana teachers now earn almost 16 percent less than they did two decades ago. Indiana is dead last in the country for teacher salary raises over the last 15 years and as a result we are ranked #37 for teachers’ median salaries. In 2011 the legislature did away with the traditional teachers’ salary schedule which incentivized teachers to earn additional degrees and provided step pay increases for continuing to teach in a school corporation. Now, most Indiana teachers are lucky to receive an annual cost of living raise of between one and two percent. This dereliction of responsibility by the Indiana legislature has created a “talent void” where 94 percent of our 290 public school districts cannot fill all their open teaching positions due to a lack of applicants.
The “talent void” created by not properly funding our public schools is reflected in the Indiana job market. The number one issue that corporations consider when evaluating expansion to a new state is the education system, which includes K12 public schools and the colleges and universities. Companies want to know if they will have enough qualified/educated workers and they also want to know if the K12 public schools are sufficient for the families of their employees. Nationally, 8 out of 10 newly created jobs require a college degree, in Indiana only 1 out of 6 new jobs require college. Since Indiana has a “talent void” and we are unable to compete for the newly created jobs in a knowledge-based economy, the majority of our college graduates leave the state. According to an April 2019 Congressional Report, Indiana is one of the ten worst states losing highly educated workers. Since 1985 the U.S. has lost, on average, over 370k manufacturing jobs per year. By 2025, over two-thirds of all the jobs will require advanced skills training or a college education. The economy is changing and our legislators need to find the courage and fortitude to help Hoosiers lead the way. Since 1973 American productivity has increased 77% while hourly pay has grown by only 12%. If the federal minimum wage tracked productivity, it would be more than $20 an hour, not today's poverty wage of $7.25. Due to automation, the value of manufacturing jobs has decreased globally.
The American Society of Civil Engineers, 2017 report card, graded our national infrastructure as a D+ and the U.S. News and World Report ranks Indiana's infrastructure as #37 in the nation. Eight percent of the bridges in Indiana are rated structurally deficient and 12% of our roads are in poor condition. Indiana needs an estimated $5.9 billion to fix or provide for the drinking water needs, and another $7.16 billion to cure the wastewater needs. 240 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential. This deteriorating infrastructure impedes Indiana’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace. Success in a 21st century economy requires serious, sustained leadership on infrastructure investment at all levels of government. Delaying these investments only escalates the cost and risks of an aging infrastructure system, an option that the country, Indiana, and families can no longer afford. The 2017 legislation (HB 1002 Transportation Infrastructure Funding) is a good first step. We are also ranked #42 for internet access across the state. This subcategory of infrastructure considers both the percentage of households with a broadband internet subscription and the share of a state's population with access to high-speed broadband. The internet connects millions of people from around the globe every day, and despite its relatively young place in history, it would be nearly impossible for most Americans to complete a 21st century education or compete in a global knowledge-based economy without the internet.
I would start by putting in place a teacher's pay schedule to incentivize people to become teachers and hopefully encourage former teachers to come back to the classroom. Teachers deserve to be paid for their experience and expertise, and I am not counting a one or two percent cost of living raise.
The idea has some merits when you consider Former Governor Mitch Daniels' statements about the Indiana "Brain Drain". Most people acknowledge that the brain drain has created a talent void in Indiana. We are one of the ten worst states in the county losing college graduates. The real key to Indiana's economic growth is to fill the talent void by retaining our college graduates and of course, producing more graduates. I would support free tuition for all community college programs along with interest free loans for higher education for all Hoosiers. However, just like a military ROTC scholarship, college graduates would incur a contractual obligation to live and work in Indiana for a specified amount of time. .
I have over 30 years active duty military service and two and a half years on the ground in Iraq. My wife and I both own guns. I also have a license to carry a handgun. So yes, I support the Second Amendment. That being said, I also support common sense gun reform. We need better supporting legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Most criminals get their guns from straw buyers which is already illegal. The problem is, without supporting legislation it is almost impossible to prove criminal intent. We need to close the loopholes for background checks and we need gun registration to stop straw buyers. These legislative actions are supported by the Second Amendment and would facilitate efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.