TERRE HAUTE —
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You cross paths with a friend, ask how they’re doing, and they say, “Ah, just livin’ the dream.”
Livin’ the dream. What exactly does that involve? Can it be defined?
Indiana’s new governor, Mike Pence, closed his well-prepared first State of the State address Tuesday night with a comment that challenges Hoosiers — including Pence — to define that concept.
“This is Indiana’s moment,” Pence said, at the tail end of a half-hour speech that touted his proposed 10-percent income tax cut, an expansion of the still-fledgling school voucher program, and upgraded vocational training in high schools. “We can put Hoosiers back to work and make Indiana first — first in job creation, first in education, and first in quality of life.”
Categories 1 and 2 seem pretty clear. In the first, existing employers expand operations and hire more people, while incoming businesses set up shop in Indiana and generate new jobs. In the second, kids reach their learning potential in vibrant, well-resourced K-through-12 schools, and further bloom in high-caliber colleges and technical training institutes. In both cases, the methods of achieving those goals stir constant debate, but the target remains reasonably obvious.
Then comes Category 3 — America’s best “quality of life.”
With job creation and education as separate considerations, what other criteria make up a great “quality of life,” or — in everyday terms — that feeling of “livin’ the dream”?
For some, cheap taxes alone amount to a dream come true, and that perk enhances all else in their world. If so, Pence’s idea to shrink Indiana’s already low individual income tax rate to 3.06 percent from 3.4 percent may single-handedly do the trick. After all, as the governor emphasized, by enacting his tax cut, “It will be official: Indiana will be the lowest taxed state in the Midwest. Companies who are here will have one more reason to expand and will give businesses outside Indiana one more reason to move to the Hoosier state.”
But that sounds more like Category 1, job creation.
One common quality-of-life element gets mentioned less by Indiana’s leaders than by typical Hoosiers — income levels. The state is far from first in the nation in those rankings. Indiana rates 31st in median household income — the combined incomes of adults living in one home. Indiana ranks 37th in per-capita income — a figure calculated by dividing the total income in a geographic area by the population, counting everybody.
Median household incomes here are $46,438, just 91.9 percent of the national figure of $50,502. In 2007, we ranked 30th. In 2004, 26th. In 2002, 23rd. The last time Indiana topped the national median household income was 1997 through ’99, according to an essay by Indiana economist Morton Marcus. From 1984 to 2011, Hoosier inflation-adjusted median household incomes rose 0.2 percent, while U.S. rates climbed 0.4 percent.
In per-capita income, Indiana ranked 17th in 1965, 33rd in 2000, according to a 2002 Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute report, “Indiana Is Falling Behind.” Again, the latest figures rank the state 37th. That report from 11 years ago stated the “national and international economy has changed fundamentally in the past 40 years. Indiana — by the standard of our citizens’ incomes and wealth — has not.”
Quality of life goes beyond incomes, in many folks’ definitions. A 2009 study by Gallup and the disease management company Healthways considered not only median incomes, but also poverty rates, life expectancy, and survey answers on life satisfaction, work quality, healthy behavior, physical health, emotional health and basic access to food and shelter, according to Forbes magazine.
To his credit, Pence acknowledged the state’s 22-percent child-poverty rate (which is persistently higher in Terre Haute), aptly calling it “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable,” and cited plans to assist kids in those situations and provide early childhood education to steer them away from continuing that cycle. If Indiana wants the nation’s finest quality of life, child-poverty reduction efforts must succeed.
Is a long life your idea of livin’ the dream? Indiana rates 35th in life expectancy, averaging 77.7 years.
Maybe it’s a healthy and contented family, peaceful relationships, clean air, clean water, low crime, good restaurants, quality state parks, safe places to hunt and fish, highways that aren’t crumbling, or a job that utilizes your full abilities.
The governor may have his own definition of “quality of life.” His view matters because he’s the chief policymaker.
But beyond an economy with peak job creation and top-notch educational opportunities, what does quality of life amount to for you? What would your “livin’ the dream” be? Send me an email response to the address below. (Just emails, please. And be sincere; sarcasm spoils the dream.)
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You’re home now
To say that Michael Curry was stressed is an understatement.
‘Ups and downs’ in the Statehouse
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Finding what the kids need
One Saturday morning event in Terre Haute aimed to raise awareness about the resources available to people with disabilities.
Spotting pot, gun in home nets 2 arrests.
Two adults were arrested and two children removed from a Vigo County home on Friday after drugs and a handgun with altered serial numbers were discovered in the home, authorities said.
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Focus on poverty, inequality
The issues of poverty and inequality will be at the forefront of the 13th annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day on March 18 at Indiana State University.
Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
Mayor Bennett threatens veto of consultant funding
Mayor Duke Bennett is threatening to veto a measure before the Terre Haute City Council that would transfer money into the council’s budget allowing the body to again hire a financial consultant.
Semitrailer fire slows eastbound traffic on Interstate 70
Traffic on Interstate 70 was slowed Thursday afternoon by a semitrailer fire just east of Terre Haute.
Tests show Skittles had no unusual chemicals
The Indiana State Health Department has given Skittles a clean bill of health.
No problems reported in early 10-digit phone dialing
Just be grateful you (probably) aren’t using a rotary telephone these days.
Cloverdale woman sentenced to 10 years in molestation/neglect case
A Cloverdale woman received a 10-year prison sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to child molesting and neglect of a defendant in Vigo Superior Court 3.
College students spend alternative spring break helping in Vigo County
Pruning in the orchard and preparing plants for the garden has been part of the experience for a group of Minnesota students who are spending this week as an alternative spring break at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
MARK BENNETT: How you approach the day will influence if you are a ‘morning person’
I can still see the stacks of coins, 40 cents in each, arranged on the dining room table.
Area Plan Department considering raising fees
The Vigo County Area Planning Department is exploring the possibility of raising the fees for its services.
Tuesday night crash leads to arrest on drug charges
A Terre Haute man was arrested on drug-related charges after a one-car accident Tuesday night in Clay County.
Clock ticking on downtown TIF district
The sun is setting on Terre Haute’s downtown tax increment finance district, which city economic development officials say has been crucial to downtown revitalization, following action this week from the Indiana General Assembly.
Lay pastor files guilty plea in child sex case
A Terre Haute man has pleaded guilty to seven felonies in connection with a child molestation that allegedly involved the man’s wife as well.
Man gets 1 year probation for child, animal neglect
A Vigo County man has been sentenced to one year on formal probation after pleading guilty to housing children and animals in a filthy house.
Three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 injures three
Three people received minor injuries and one motorist was cited following a three-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 at Springhill Drive at 9:59 a.m. Wednesday.
Sullivan daycare fire victim ID’d
Sullivan County authorities have released the name of a 1 1⁄2-year-old girl who died Tuesday morning in a Sullivan County daycare fire.
Sullivan Daycare fire: Broken hearts
A 11⁄2-year-old girl tragically died early Tuesday morning as the result of a fire at Waterman’s Wonderland Daycare on Sullivan’s south side.
Sony DADC cutting 34 distribution jobs here
Sony DADC is halting product distribution operations from its Terre Haute plant at a cost of 34 jobs, a company official said Tuesday.
Bill ends automatic license suspensions for many crimes
Unpaid parking fines, falling behind on child support, drunken driving: So many offenses trigger a suspended driver’s license in Indiana that more than a half-million Hoosiers have lost their driving privileges. In fact, driving on a suspended license is the most common charged offense, prosecutors say.
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