Rep. B. Patrick Bauer
D-South Bend, Indiana House Democratic Leader
As the leaders of single-party control in state government outline their agendas for the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly, it is easy to be cynical about their intentions in the months to come.
After years of listening to bragging that Indiana paces the country in job growth, now we are told that our state has not been doing so well after all. We lack one critical tool to create jobs.
Its supporters call it right to work.
It should be more accurately called “right to work for less.”
If you want to be completely accurate, call it right to work for less without health care.
A legislative committee studied this topic last summer, and any objective viewers of those proceedings would agree with what opponents have maintained for years: “right to work for less” leads to fewer jobs with lower wages in unsafe workplaces.
As we have seen, however, an objective point of view — or public opposition, for that matter B. — means nothing to the special interests that want “right to work for less.” The people of Indiana do not want it, but they will try to shove it down our throats anyway.
To see this administration call upon such a terrible idea as the key to future economic growth in Indiana surely demonstrates the kind of carelessness typical of a group entering its final days in office. It is the same kind of sloppy, fatigued leadership that overstates its job creation claims and just happens to lose $320 million in taxpayer dollars like it’s spare change stuck behind the cushions of the family couch.
It is a joke to claim that “right for work for less” will provide more jobs for Hoosiers at a time when our true unemployment rate (counting people who have given up looking for work) is over 16 percent. Those one in six Hoosiers who don’t have a job don’t think it’s very funny.
The only thing it will do is put Indiana on a par with Mississippi among states that are least attractive to businesses, equal with Nevada when it comes to high unemployment, and down there with China as a haven for unsafe workplaces.
Indiana House Democrats will fight this radical, anti-family agenda with all the resources at our power. We will ask supporters to provide actual evidence that proves their claims that businesses have ignored Indiana because we don’t have “right to work for less.”
Above all, we will provide an alternate plan of what our state can do to put people back to work, give our children the education they deserve, and protect families.
Our plan is called Helping Hoosiers Now. Here are some highlights:
Since small businesses are responsible for 80 percent of all new job creation, we will seek to create a Hoosier Job Creation Tax Credit to encourage small business owners to hire unemployed Hoosiers and Indiana veterans. We will ask the state to dedicate funding to a small business loan program.
House Democrats will continue to insist that Hoosiers get first crack at public works contracts funded by Hoosier tax dollars. Companies that do not live up to their commitments to create and keep jobs should be forced to give back taxpayer-funded incentives.
Education reform should begin as early as possible by providing a voucher program that enables low-income families to enter their children in pre-school programs. We need to live up to our state’s promise of giving every child the option of attending full-day kindergarten free of charge. We need to reaffirm our belief in tested education reforms like caps on classroom sizes, and make sure that local control of our schools remains a priority.
We need to focus on targeted tax relief that can benefit families. We should give all families the tax deduction for education expenses that currently goes only to private and home school students. We will try to exempt textbooks from the state sales tax. We believe there should be a sales tax holiday to help parents purchasing school supplies. We support a state version of the federal tax credit for child care.
These tax cuts for families cost about the same as the $80 million corporate tax break approved earlier this year, a break that isn’t even tied to job creation.
In fact, all of the proposals I have outlined here can be easily achieved, while still allowing the governor to keep his cherished state surplus well above $1 billion.
In 2012, Indiana House Democrats intend to provide another path for our state to follow. “Right to work for less” will not be the only answer to the problems facing Hoosiers.
Democratic Rep. B. Patrick Bauer was Speaker of the House in the Indiana House of Representatives before Republicans took control of the chamber after the 2010 statewide election.