There needs to be only one priority for lawmakers in the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly: finding jobs for Hoosiers.
As I write this, more than 266,000 Hoosiers are officially classified as unemployed. Thousands more have given up hope of ever finding another job.
In the face of these staggering numbers, we have to devote our energies to getting more people back to work as quickly as possible.
What should we be doing to create jobs in Indiana?
First of all, we need to be taking advantage of our greatest resource: the men and women of this state who ask nothing more than the opportunity to make an honest living from a hard day's work.
We have to provide them with a chance to make the kind of real progress that comes when everyone prospers, not just the very rich and the largest corporations. Real progress comes when unemployment goes down and wages go up. Real progress comes when families don't have to struggle for basic needs.
To that end, I believe we need to pursue a program that focuses on targeted tax cuts that get people back to work and invest in those things that matter – namely, jobs, schools and small businesses.
That last point is particularly important. Small businesses are the engine of our economy, responsible for 80 percent of new job creation.
I believe we need to pursue a tax credit directed toward job creation, with a focus on hiring the unemployed and Hoosier veterans. I also feel we should provide more low interest loans to keep small businesses afloat during tougher economic times.
We need to make sure that our efforts are directed at giving Hoosiers the best chance at getting the jobs that are created. Other states have dabbled successfully with programs that link unemployment benefits with training workers. There is a movement to explore such a program at the national level and I can see no reason why we cannot look at it here.
In addition, I maintain that this state should be more forceful in making sure that public works contracts – roads, bridges, buildings at our state university campuses – that are built using Hoosier tax dollars should be employing Hoosier workers.
As we help businesses attract new jobs, we also want to make sure those businesses are accountable if they do not live up their promises. We should require that companies give back taxpayer‐funded incentives if they do not live up to their end of the deal in creating jobs. Our commitment should be matched by one equally as strong from those who benefit from breaks paid for by the people of Indiana.
I am a firm believer in allowing local governments the ability to make decisions locally. By providing our local units of government with the controls they need, they will better be able to protect their public works projects from delays and cost overruns by entering into mutually beneficial agreements with workers. These local agreements can help us all, by keeping project costs to the budgeted amounts and protected from avoidable time delays.
I also intend to make sure that my colleagues in the General Assembly continue to realize that the Little Calumet River Flood Control Project remains a high priority for Northwest Indiana. We cannot ignore the long‐term benefits of this asset, or the impact it has on our region. Together, we must find continued funding for its operation and maintenance.
Additionally, issues between the Town of Griffith and Calumet Township can no longer be ignored. There are real hardships facing the residents of these communities and addressing the inequities and adopting efficiencies can only strengthen both communities.
If you stop to think, none of these are new ideas. They have been proposed and debated in the halls of state government on numerous occasions in recent years.
What has been missing is a renewed commitment toward seeing these proposals put into place. We have too many people in Indiana who have been out of work for too long. It is our obligation to make them our greatest priority in 2012 and beyond.