GUEST COMMENTARY: Dems want to put Indiana's House in order

2013-01-10T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Dems want to put Indiana's House in orderBy Scott Pelath nwitimes.com
January 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The last two elections have seen the House turn from an evenly divided chamber into one controlled by one party by a substantial margin.

We must make sure the power of government does not shift far from the center. The House majority has the duty not to misinterpret the reasons they were elected, and I hope they show enlightened restraint.

As for House Democrats? We offer three proposals:

Help the middle class first.

The economic engine of this state are our working men and women. They are the reason the lights remain on at local businesses. They also haven’t done as well as others.

According to the most recent Census Bureau figures, Indiana’s median household income lags behind the rest of the nation by more than $4,000. The median value of our owner-occupied housing units is more than $60,000 lower than the country as a whole. We have been behind the nation for years.

There will be discussions this session about revenue. We should keep it simple: No tax giveaways for people who don’t need them.

If tax cuts are in order, focus them on the workers who create the profits in our state. Otherwise, remember that our middle class is being squeezed everywhere, and the costs of health care, education, and meeting our everyday obligations cause stress for all families.

We know many people don’t like the Affordable Care Act, but the law is reality and we want to make it work. Hundreds of thousands of middle class workers should not be forced to use the emergency room as their only health care option.

Finally, we need to stop putting downward pressure on wages. The answer to every economic problem cannot be passing laws like “right to work” that hold down wages on the middle class.

Middle class workers must adapt to new jobs quickly. No one should face decades of debt simply because he or she seeks the skills demanded by employers in the electronic age.

We must fix the mistakes made by outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and reinforce traditional public schools.

Last November, the people of Indiana made it clear they do not want our kids to be experiments or science projects. They want a solid education for their children, with safe schools, small class sizes and a place where struggling students get a little extra help.

We need to restore the budgeted investments promised to classrooms throughout Indiana. And we must bolster investments with taxpayer value, such as full-day kindergarten and early childhood learning.

At the same time, we should not forget about children afraid to go home from school for fear of being beaten or abused. The Department of Child Services should have all the resources available to protect our children.

Finally, Indiana House Democrats believe there needs to be a two-year moratorium on “social issues.”

Our state and nation are deeply divided on these deeply sensitive matters affecting who loves who, human reproduction and women’s health.

People deserve a break from the political exploitation of their fears and emotions as we work to rebuild our economy.

Since the election, Speaker Brian Bosma and other House Republican leaders have stressed the need for cooperation and their willingness to make sure the House minority is involved. We intend to take them at their word.

State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, is the House Democratic Leader. The opinion is the writer's.

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