VALPARAISO | Saying he refuses to accept some people's pessimistic projection that nothing can get done in Washington until 2017, Sen. Dan Coats presented his Road Map for 2014 at several stops around the state Wednesday.
Coats, R-Ind., spoke at the Valparaiso City Hall council chambers and listed 10 general proposals he said can be accomplished in the next three years. The proposals are based on comments and suggestions from Hoosiers he's talked to around the state since taking office three years ago.
Calling his plan "The Indiana Way," Coats said he wants to replace the federal Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare, with something that is "sensible and achievable." Until he can do that, he hopes to "mitigate the damages" to Hoosiers. One step would be to eliminate the law's medical device tax, which he said has cost more than 10,000 jobs.
Coats said the ACA topped the list of comments and concerns he's heard from Hoosiers. To replace the ACA, he would like a law that expands health savings accounts, allows health insurance to be purchased across state lines, reforms medical malpractice laws and allows small businesses to pool resources to buy insurance for employees.
While saying he would support the state's road, rail and port infrastructure, Coats said the pot of discretionary money Congress has to do that is shrinking as mandatory entitlement spending increases. Greater state funding and alternatives, such as public/private partnerships, are needed for projects like the Illiana Expressway and the South Shore commuter rail extension to Valparaiso, he said.
He said coal fuels about 85 percent of the state's electrical power, making the utility rates among the lowest in the nation, but that is being threatened by environmental regulations. He favors a solution that balances environmental protection with continue access to coal and other energy sources that protect jobs. He also supports fracking as a means of tapping natural gas sources and helping achieve energy independence.
Other points on his road map include eliminating the inheritance tax, eliminating waste and fraud in the health and retirement security programs, making the tax system simpler and fairer, supporting community banks and small businesses, protecting the homeland and promoting Indiana's defense assets and doing things to promote job growth.
Coats said he would try to get 100 percent of the federal gas tax collected in Indiana returned to the state instead of a portion going to other states and would provide incentives for businesses to bring their offshore operations back to the U.S. He also would lower the corporate income tax, which he said is the highest in the world, and close the loopholes in the law.