The 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly was a disaster.
The damage that has been done to the people of this state over the past four months will have an impact that lasts for years to come.
In the weeks ahead, I will be reporting in greater detail about what has taken place this year, but let me begin by saying this: In the name of “reform” and “electoral mandate,” the majorities in charge of this Legislature have passed a slew of proposals that will hurt millions of Hoosiers.
Some have been hidden away by obscure language tucked away in bills that are hundreds of pages in length, but most of this harm has been done in broad daylight in legislation that has passed on party-line votes and gladly been signed into law by our governor.
The damage will be felt in the pocketbooks of millions of Hoosiers. It will create lasting harm to the quality of education that our children receive. If anyone will benefit, it will be the legal community because I see many of these proposals causing a flurry of lawsuits.
Nothing describes what has happened this session better than by simply reciting two new laws that will be declared highlights by those who control the Legislature.
We have cut corporate taxes by 25 percent.
We have cut assistance for out-of-work Hoosiers by 25 percent.
The first is described as a job creation measure, even though its benefits will be felt mostly by the shareholders and executives of the corporations that get the cut.
The second is described as a price that must be paid by working men and women who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. They will be asked to provide for their families with 25 percent less than before.
Neither measure does a thing to create jobs for Hoosiers. We still have more than 270,000 people out of work, and this Legislature has done nothing to get them back to earning a decent living wage so they can support their families.
But perhaps the ultimate tragedy about this session is the price that will be paid by those children who will not be able to take advantage of charter schools or taxpayer-funded vouchers that will enable them to attend private schools.
These kids will be facing larger class sizes, fewer programs that will enable them to take advantage of their talents, and fewer instructors.
You will be told that the new state budget contains an increase in state support for our public schools.
That is false.
This governor has cut state support for schools by $600 million these past two years, and the $150 million that is being trumpeted as new state assistance will not offset that loss. About a third of that amount isn’t even going toward day-to-day school operations. Our public schools will be asked to make do with funding levels that are lower than they were two years ago.
Beyond that, this budget contains tax breaks for families that choose to home school their children or send them to private schools. These breaks even allow relief from the textbook tax that has plagued Hoosier families for too many years. Does it surprise you that these breaks will not be available to the vast majority of families in our state?
If it sounds like I am angry and frustrated about what has happened, it’s because I am.
We should not be applauding a legislative session that benefits the privileged few at a cost to hundreds of thousands of hard-working Hoosiers.
As the scope of this agenda gains more attention, I think you will share my anger and frustration. In the weeks and months that follow, I am going to give you more details on what has been done to you by those who ran the Indiana General Assembly in 2011. Be prepared. It will not be pretty.
Even though the session has come to a close, I am still ready to help if you need any assistance, or have questions about state government or the Legislature. Here are the best ways to stay in touch:
Call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842;
Write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or
E-mail me at H17@in.gov.