The panel members
found common ground on strengthening public schools, supporting retired
teachers, spurring job growth and finding support for local governments
which might be impacted by Governor Mike Pence’s plan to do away with
personal property tax.
Pelath, who is the
Minority Leader for the House, said the proposal caught everyone in the
statehouse “a little off guard” but he personally believes there are other
ways to attract businesses such as having a skilled work force.
“Business taxes are
not the problem. We need to invest in our middle class. They are the
economic engine of Indiana,” Pelath said.
Businesses are also
looking for local governments that can afford to keep the roads plowed and
provide police protection, he added.
The governor’s plan
would be a tax shift, Pelath said, and while “it’s not the worst idea” there
are other priorities that come first.
there are “many pieces of the puzzle” to the governor’s plan but the fact is
Indiana is in a “perpetual competition for economic opportunity and jobs.”
Moseley said he
applauds the many legislators on both sides of the aisle who have raised
questions on the business property tax cuts during this short session. He
said that he feels the state has already done “a fine job” attracting
businesses and wishes General Assembly would spend more time finding ways to
raise wages for working Hoosiers and to provide health care coverage.
out local governments have the tools to attract business themselves with
such measures as TIF districts.
While it is the
governor’s role to provide some vision, it is the House and Senate that work
out the compromises, Soliday said, and cutting out $1 billion from local tax
collections statewide is something that probably won’t happen.
The House version
of the bill for the tax elimination would allow counties to decide whether
they want the tax cuts. Problems with local empowerment bills like this,
Soliday said, is that they may benefit one county but not another.
“One size does not
fit all for everywhere in the state,” he said.
Tallian said she
also questioned the measure as many school districts and local governments
are already strapped for funds.
asked for input on teachers’ collective bargaining, school safety, public
employees’ retirement plans and effects of the right-to-work law.
specifically directed towards Soliday and Pelath asked their opinions of the
perception General Assembly members have of teachers.
Both said that they
do not know of one colleague in either the House or the Senate who hates
teachers. Pelath said there is some resentment however against teacher
unions. He also said that looking at voting records, you can see there are
splits between legislators who support traditional public schools versus
unregulated charter schools and private/religious schools with vouchers.
said despite the promise of high-paying jobs to Indiana, right-to-work “has
done nothing” in terms of workforce development. The contentious measure
signed into law two years ago means that workers do not have to pay dues to
a union group in order to be represented.
Pelath and Soliday
both agreed that right-to-work has not brought one new job to the state.
Soliday said he was one of the few House Republicans who cast a no vote on
the right to work bill. He believes the type of high-paying jobs needed in
the state are those related to computer technology.
frustration over the Assembly’s actions to limit collective bargaining
rights and benefits for teachers. When the teachers feel better about their
jobs, the classroom benefits as well as the workplace, he said. He said he
believes organized labor is key to growing the middle class.
Tallian added that
as ranking minority member of the Senate’s Pension and Labor committee,
she’s heard a plethora of bills that “peck away” not just at teacher unions,
but unions in all trades.
Also at Saturday’s
forum, the lawmakers voiced their hopes of getting policies in place to give
teachers the most out of their Annuity Savings Account when they retire.
Part of the struggle is adjusting the rates of fixed income to offset
In other issues
related to education, Soliday talked about a house bill being considered to
put cameras on the stop sign swing arms of school buses that would
facilitate issuance of fines to drivers that illegally drive past. The
problem is especially prevalent in urban areas like Indianapolis.
Tallian spoke about
concerns she has with education bills that are being drafted and pushed
through by lawmakers who do not have any experience in the field of
education. She calls upon those in the Assembly to let Indiana
Superintendent of Public Education Glenda Ritz “do her job.”