Tag Archives: Indiana General Assembly

A Sensible Proposal In the Indiana General Assembly?

Astonishing as it seems, news occasionally emerges of rational proposals at the Indiana Statehouse.

The Indianapolis Business Journal recently reported on one:

An Indiana Senate Republican wants to reward businesses with tax credits when they raise pay for their minimum-wage workers.

State Sen. John Ruckelshaus of Indianapolis has introduced a bill that would provide a credit against state tax liability for employers of minimum-wage workers that give raises to their workers after those workers complete a training program that would improve their education level or skills.

Since being elected to the General Assembly, Ruckelshaus has reminded me of the highly principled Ruckelshauses I used to know. (I believe they were his father and uncle.) They were the kind of Republicans I routinely encountered before the party devolved into today’s iteration–a cross between a cult and a comedy writer’s Mafia. (Senator Ruckelshaus is also sponsoring one of this session’s anti-gerrymandering measures, so kudos to him.)

Ruckelshaus said Senate Bill 15 is designed to incentivize businesses to help their minimum-wage workers move up the economic ladder.

“They’re trapped because they don’t have the skills to move up the ladder,” Ruckelshaus said. “The whole concept is it’s a two-way street between the employer and employee. It’s a tax credit to employers. For the worker that receives an increase in pay, they’re able to raise their skills up and be more attractive in the workforce, and be able to make more than a minimum wage.”

Aside from being good policy, this sort of approach inadvertently illustrates what is wrong with the “trickle down” economic theory that Congressional Republicans always trot out to justify their persistent work on behalf of the already-rich–a theory they repeatedly recited when defending the obvious inequities of their recent tax “reform” bill.

How often have we heard that recitation?  If we just give tax breaks to the wealthy (no strings attached)–that money will be used to invest in businesses that will hire workers. Those tax giveaways to the “makers” are necessary in order to create jobs!

I have frequently asked what seems like a reasonable question: if these tax cuts and loopholes so favorable to the wealthy are really intended to create jobs, why aren’t they targeted to that result, in much the same way as Ruckelshaus has proposed; that is, why not limit proposed incentives to employers who can demonstrate that they have provided the intended benefit? It would seem simple enough to attach some “accountability strings” that would base federal tax incentives on jobs created–to provide that, for every added job an employer could document, she would receive a tax deduction. Or better yet, a tax credit.

I’m confident that most Americans would applaud a tax “cut” that was carefully targeted and constructed to reward actual job creation, rather than the munificent giveaways that are not conditioned upon providing any evidence of public benefit. Research confirms that these no-strings-attached windfalls routinely find their way into shareholder dividends and management bonuses rather than job creation or workers’ pay.

Kudos to State Senator Ruckelshaus. May his tribe–and his approach–increase.

Paying for Secrecy

Indiana doesn’t have money for adequate infrastructure repair and maintenance, or for preschool for at-risk children, or …well, you know the drill. There are all sorts of things normal citizens expect their state government to do only to be told by our elected overlords that the money isn’t there.

But there’s always enough money to pay the lawyers to defend our lawmakers’ misplaced priorities or ethically indefensible actions.

Did Indiana’s Governor refuse to resettle Syrian refugees, despite the fact that under long-settled law, he doesn’t have the legal authority to make that decision? Let’s have the Attorney General defend him in the inevitable lawsuit, and then appeal the (equally inevitable) adverse verdict.

Is the Environmental Protection Agency trying to bring 19th Century environmental policies into compliance with the realities of 21st Century problems? Sue the EPA and insist that Indiana won’t go along.

And don’t get me started on the entirely  voluntary participation of Indiana in several culture war lawsuits aimed at derailing equal rights for LGBT Americans. We do like to keep our AG busy!

Most recently, we learn from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (not from the Indianapolis Star, which is too busy reporting on the “beer beat” and obsessing over the broom guy to cover city or state government) that

Hoosier taxpayers have paid $160,000 in legal fees to shield Indiana House and Senate communications from public view in just eight months.

The final tab will be higher because the most recent tally from the Indiana Auditor’s Office doesn’t include a bill covering the March 17 oral argument before the Indiana Supreme Court.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition. “It would have been a lot cheaper just to honor the public records law.”

“Follow the money” is a time-honored mantra that can mean many things. But one thing it almost always means is that people allocate resources based upon their actual priorities.

Indiana may not “have money” for preschool, or road repair, or environmental protection, but we seem to have unlimited resources to protect the perquisites of the powerful…

Bagging Home Rule

The IBJ reports on a measure approved by the Indiana Senate that would prevent local government units from taxing or restricting the use of disposable plastic bags by retailers, including grocery stores.

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said businesses, industry groups and many consumers oppose regulation of bag use.

Many consumers are also citizens who believe the cities they live in should have the right to determine their own policies–on plastic bags, on public transportation, and on the myriad other issues pre-empted by state legislators who believe that they know better than local officials what rules Indiana residents should follow, and what programs and/or initiatives those residents should be allowed to implement.

Whatever your opinion about plastic bags or public transportation, the high-handedness of our statehouse overlords on those and other issues ought to infuriate you.

It is particularly offensive that decisions affecting residents of urban areas are routinely made by representatives of suburban and especially rural populations, whose grasp of the challenges and realities faced by elected officials in metropolitan areas is limited, at best, and whose hostility to the needs of Indianapolis and Central Indiana is a perennial statehouse reality.

This disinclination to allow Indianapolis to govern itself, to make decisions about its own affairs, is particularly galling because the city is the economic driver of the state.

Talk about your “makers” and “takers”!

And We Wonder Why People Don’t Vote…

Can you spell Glenda Ritz?

Per the Indianapolis Star,

A bill that would result in the ousting of Glenda Ritz as the chair of the Indiana State Board of Education passed the House on Tuesday, moving a step closer to becoming a law….

The bill, which the House passed by a 56-41 vote, marks the latest blow to Ritz’s authority over education in Indiana.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know whether Ritz is competent or a complete doofus–and it doesn’t matter.  Indiana voters elected her. By a substantial margin. She got significantly more votes than Governor Pence (who, I note in passing, has shown himself to be a complete doofus without engendering legislation stripping him of his position).

Ritz’s election annoyed the arrogant Super Majority in our embarrassing, hyper-partisan and tone-deaf legislature. So they decided to reverse the election results and neuter her–and to symbolically spit on everyone who had voted for her. Because they could.

Let’s see: so far this session, the Governor and legislature have undermined thirty years of civic effort to sell Indiana as a welcoming place to live, turned down federal money that would have benefitted poor preschool children, created a “news bureau” that became a national laughingstock before being ignominiously abandoned, voted against use of the Common Construction wage (ignoring warnings by construction company owners and workers alike that the move will cost Indiana jobs), sent a “FU” message to the EPA….the list goes on.

We can only hope the General Assembly goes home before it can help the Governor do more damage.

Meanwhile, Hoosiers who support teachers, contractors, the environment, civil rights for LGBT folks, a free press and/or that pesky thing called democracy need to figure out how to make our votes count–and stick–in future elections.

 

Well, Look Who’s Calling Out Crony Capitalism!

Four friends have now sent me a link to this column from the Indiana Policy Review, penned (okay, typed) by Tom Charles Huston. It was surprising for a number of reasons.

For those who don’t remember, Huston was the national head of Young Americans for Freedom, back in the 60s when that college organization was considered radically conservative, and later–and more ominously–was the “mastermind” behind the Huston Plan to expand Nixon administration spying on the anti-Viet Nam war movement. After his stint in the Nixon White House, Huston returned to Indianapolis and practiced law at Barnes & Thornburg; he has been retired for several years now, and if he has participated in local policy debates these past few years, I’ve missed it.

That makes his column all the more interesting; it’s a slashing–and very effective–attack on the bill to provide a financing mechanism for the Indy Eleven soccer stadium. A bill sponsored by Huston’s nephew. A bill ardently desired by Ersal Ozdemir (who is described by Huston as “rapacious.”)

The assurance by the bill’s sponsor of transparency in financing the proposed soccer stadium rings hollow to anyone who hasn’t been asleep or on the take for the past seven years. Mayor Greg Ballard has refused to turn over documentation relating to either the special operations center lease or the financing structure for the proposed criminal justice center (both multi-million dollar deals) and has conducted as much of the public business in secret as his handlers thought he could get away with.

I gather from the Indianapolis Star report that taxpayers are expected to sleep better knowing that the legislators orchestrating this hand-out to special interests are committed to “making sure state taxpayers are at mitigated risk.” This is typical no-doze for idiots, but why taxpayers should be at any risk or who profits from this assumption of risk are not questions that interest a Star reporter.

I am undecided whether those pushing this scheme are in on the action or are simply reading from a script prepared by the lobbyists (which, incidentally, include every major lobbying outfit in Indianapolis).

Huston doesn’t mention it, but Ozdemir’s company, Keystone Development, employs Ballard’s former chief of staff. Lots of eyebrows were raised–and criticisms leveled–when Keystone got a sweetheart deal to build a parking garage (still underused) on a floodplain in Broad Ripple. Critics  pointed out that the city (over)paid to build the garage and also assumed the project’s risk, while the profits went to Ozdemir. (Crony capitalism at its finest: socialize the risk, privatize the profits….)

Others have noted that he walked away mid-construction from two libraries he’d contracted to build, forfeiting the bonds he’d posted on those projects. (Usually, if a contractor or developer forfeits even one bond, he’s toast–he can’t get another. Construction industry insiders don’t understand how Ozdemir has managed to keep operating after those defaults.)

Now the World’s Worst Legislature is in the process of enriching Mr. Ozdemir further, thanks largely to the fact that–as Huston points out–he’s hired lobbyists from every major firm in town. 

I may not have agreed with his politics, but when Tom Charles Huston is right, he’s right. And in his screed in Indiana Policy Review, he’s right.