Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Tallian and Moseley talk healthcare and budget with Duneland residents

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

While Democrats were not able to accomplish as much as they hoped in the Indiana Statehouse this year when it comes to jobs and healthcare reform, State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and State Representative Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, said they are not giving up on the potential to accomplish those things in 2014.

Both legislators traveled back to Porter County from Indianapolis on Saturday and met with about 30 Dunelanders at the Chesterton Town Hall.

The bulk of the hour-long discussion covered mainly two topics on the minds of the audience – the future of healthcare and education.

Tallian, who is the Democratic member on the Senate’s budget committee, said her party is pursuing a local state exchange program for the Affordable Care Act that could mean $20 billion in federal money to Indiana over the span of about seven years.

Many other states are ahead of Indiana by enacting their local exchange programs to reap the benefits.

“It’s huge,” Tallian said. “That’s why so many states are following in line with this. It is too much money to refuse.”

With the ACA in place, Hoosiers who are not offered insurance from their employers or are not on Medicaid would be required to buy insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and if a household of four is earning less than $30,000 a year they will be given subsidies through the Medicaid expansions, Tallian said.

Falling under this umbrella are the many workers who are kept under the minimum number of work hours required to be offered insurance, Tallian said.

The expansion, Moseley added, could make roughly 400,000 more Hoosiers eligible for Medicaid. With more Hoosiers insured, Moseley argued insurance costs in general will go down because others will not have to cover the costs of the uninsured’s trips to the emergency room.

“That’s 400,000 less you are paying for,” he said.

Tallian has filed a bill to form a study committee to direct the Department of Insurance to develop a plan to implement a health benefit exchange program by this summer, so that the Indiana Assembly can vote on it in 2014.

But it will take a lot of effort and compromise before Indiana lawmakers can agree on a way to start its own exchange program. Tallian cautioned that “it is going to be a long, bumpy time to get through it.”

Moseley added that if Indiana does not to opt into ACA, it will miss out in creating up to 30,000 new jobs “almost immediately” according to a study commissioned by the Indiana Hospital Association.

Meanwhile, the most important thing to get done in the Assembly this year is to approve the state budget for the next two years, as required by the Indiana Constitution, Tallian said.

The next revenue forecast will be in April which will give legislators a clearer idea of how to finish the budget work. Sources have indicated that the economy has started to rebound out of the recession, Tallian said, and increases have been seen in the three sources of state revenue – income tax, sales tax and casino/gaming revenue.

“We’re in fairly good shape,” she said.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has proposed income tax cuts for his first year in office but the majority of lawmakers have argued against the move since it could cost the state roughly $500 million.

Moseley said that Tallian’s position as the minority member of the budget committee creates a unique opportunity for her constituents.

“We have somebody locally with the ability to effect change in the Indiana budgeting process,” he said.

Moseley expounded on his view that the Assembly should talk less about making cuts to the budget and instead concentrate efforts on finding ways to generate jobs.

Jobs create greater income tax numbers, he said, which means more funding could be given to state programs and education, instead of reductions.

“We can still arrive at the same goal – solvency,” he said.

Moseley expressed disappointment that for a third year in a row, his bill to create the Indiana Heritage Fund to manufacture steel in Indiana to produce wind turbines was not given a vote.

With 2,000 turbines expected to be put up by 2016, there could have been about 850 new jobs for Indiana over the next three years, Moseley said. The steel used to build those turbines now is imported from China, he added.

“Rather than growing, we are going backward,” Moseley said.

Tallian said she faced a disappointment of her own this session when she was told her bill SB 469 to make kindergarten mandatory would get a hearing, which never happened.

On a positive note, Tallian said studies have shown that the number of children who don’t attend kindergarten is decreasing.

Audience members inquired where the state assembly stands on expansion of the school vouchers system which gives money to schools with religious affiliations.

“That is a clear violation of the separation of church and state,” one audience member said.

Tallian that although there is no plan anticipated to revoke the voucher system by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP has not made any major changes in education this year and would like to study the effects of the laws put in place in recent years.

Both Moseley and Tallian said that the state now faces the challenge of funding three different types of schools with less money in the pool. Instead of just traditional public schools, the state now pays for charter schools and voucher schools. Tallian said charter schools are public schools, but they are operated by non-profit organizations rather than a school corporation.

 

Posted 3/19/2013