GUEST COMMENTARY: Indiana's GOP didn't listen to middle class

2013-05-07T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Indiana's GOP didn't listen to middle classState Rep. Scott Pelath nwitimes.com
May 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Last year, Hoosiers entrusted the Republican Party with some of their most precious possessions.

They have a new, polished Republican governor. They have two powerful Republican “supermajorities” in the House and the Senate. The Republicans hold every state office except school superintendent, and its current steward, Glenda Ritz, works hard to keep politics out of education.

What the people wanted in return was simple: Pay attention to hardworking taxpayers. Alleviate their fears of slipping out of the middle class. Spur opportunities for people trying to get into the middle class. Set a clear direction for our kids’ future.

Instead, during the 2013 legislative session, the people were told that what they have is good enough.

That probably is not what folks had in mind.

When the Legislature convened in January, Democrats gave some heartfelt advice to our freshly triumphant friends across the aisle: Put the middle class first.

They heard us. But they didn’t listen.

Let us always remember that the middle class is Indiana’s economic engine. They buy the consumer goods and spend at local businesses. They create profits for their employers. They pay most of the income and sales taxes.

But they are struggling.

Indiana’s unemployment rate stubbornly hovers right below 9 percent. Hundreds of thousands of working taxpayers have only the emergency room as their primary health care option. Median household income trails the rest of the nation.

The Legislature’s response, unfortunately, was to ignore these problems.

Legislative leaders punted on the biggest issue of our generation, which is the expansion of health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Remember that we already pay taxes to Washington for the ACA. We now risk that our taxes will support health care in Michigan and Illinois, while our residents flood into chaotically expensive ERs.

Middle class taxpayers and premium payers cannot afford that anymore.

And neither can the 30,000 taxpaying workers who would fill the jobs that depend on health care expansion.

Nor can the 400,000 uninsured Hoosiers who would be lifted out of the ranks of the uninsured and into the middle class.

Even the one Republican idea for helping middle class consumers — Gov. Mike Pence’s income tax cut — was turned into a lose-lose situation by Republican hand-wringing and pointless compromises. The state will now lose millions in revenue that could train middle class workers. In return, the typical taxpayer will get an extra buck a week to spend — starting two years from now.

It’s tax cut hell: Less revenue with no economic benefit in return.

Instead, the supermajorities fell back on what often makes them happy, which is getting money in the hands of folks who may or may not help the rest of us. 

As a result, a precious opportunity was squandered.

State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, is the Democratic leader in the Indiana House. The opinions are the writer's.

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