Michael's update on second week of General Assembly

Friday, January 16, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- The General Assembly began its second week with a number of ceremonial activities, including the inauguration of our state's leaders and a joint session between the Indiana House and Senate to hear the annual State of the State address by Governor Mitch Daniels.

As the Governor presented his address, the message focused on no tax increases, protection of the $1.3 billion state reserves, government reform, providing discipline in the classroom and a call to pass permanent caps on property taxes in the State's Constitution.

While I appreciate his vision, 2009 will present a tremendous amount of challenges that will require patience and collaboration.

In the last year, our state has lost more than 80,000 jobs, with even more losses expected in the months to come. Unemployment has hit an average of 7 percent across the state. It is evident the national recession is in full force in Indiana. While the unemployment crisis was missing from the Governors' speech, state lawmakers must be ready to pass laws that will stimulate job creation for our citizens, and provide for a sustainable unemployment fund.

Education will be debated on many fronts. While he spoke about the importance of education for our students, the governor has proposed flat-lining school expenditures and cutting funds to higher education by an average of 4 percent.

The reality of these steps will mean higher tuition costs to families and a reduction in operational costs for our schools. Additionally, as we discuss another round of consolidating smaller schools, our teachers, administrators and families are continuing to fight for smaller classrooms in order to have a lower teacher-to-student ratio, which has been proven to result in improved classroom performance.

As for the constitutional amendment on property tax caps, the Legislature passed this amendment in the 2008 session. Before it can go before the people of Indiana in a referendum vote, we must pass it again in 2009 or 2010.

Since the caps do not become effective until this year, we have not experienced the full impact on property taxes and local government services. Many of us believe it would be prudent to take another year to gain actual data before passing the amendment in 2010. It doesn't matter whether we pass it in 2009 or 2010 -- the people of Indiana still cannot vote on this issue until November 2010. I believe we need more time to make our judgment based on the facts.

Beyond the general goals for this session, many members have their own agendas. To date, 736 bills have been filed in the House. Committees will consider the measure, hear testimony on its pros and cons, consider changes and finally vote to pass or reject the proposal.

The hallways are becoming more active as our citizens and organizations around the state are coming to introduce themselves and their interests.

I have already enjoyed the opportunity to hear from my friends and residents from Clay, Putnam, Parke and Vigo Counties. I have met with officials from a number of organizations, including Indiana Farm Bureau, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, DePauw University, Ivy Tech, Indiana State, the Indiana CPA Society and Indiana Energy.

While there are endless meetings to attend, the schedule is dictated by our committee assignments, preparation for the presentation of bills and addressing constituent needs.

The schedule for the balance of January has been adjusted in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday (Jan. 19) and the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday (Jan. 20). After that time, we will begin this session's work in earnest.

If you need to reach me during session, you can call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of (800) 382-9842 or write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or submit your comments on my website at www.IN.gov/H44.

While visiting my web site, you can also sign up to receive regular e-mail updates from the Legislature.

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  • Is this a Michael's paid advertisement? Not wanting to cut spending when the state's income is down and not wanting to cap property tax.... typical democrat. By capping business property tax at 3%, Indiana would become the only state in the country to do so. Do you think this might bring in new business ??

    -- Posted by JC-INC on Mon, Jan 19, 2009, at 11:43 AM
  • When our family budget is out of money, we stop spending. We do not spend more or borrow or ask others to bail us out. Mitch Daniels is one of the only governors who balance their state's budget. As for the loss of jobs...perhaps their was over production of what works. Starbucks was hot, so one was built on every corner with stripmalls to go with it. Closing them is smart not a bad economy. Opening them in the first place was stupid not growing the economy. Don't be so influenced by the media. Think for yourself and use common sense the way it was 40 years ago.

    -- Posted by diversityforall on Tue, Jan 20, 2009, at 6:43 PM
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