Tag Archives: Pence Administration

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish–Millionth Edition

These days, partisan divisions are so acute that we sometimes forget the stark differences that can also characterize members of the same political party. For example, I worked in the Hudnut Administration, and I often noted the dramatic differences between Republican Bill Hudnut’s approach to governance and that of his equally Republican successor, Steve Goldsmith.

I used to say that if a survey were to disclose that most citizens didn’t see any use for city planners, Hudnut would go out into the community and explain why planning was important; Goldsmith would say “Oh good. Let’s fire the planners.”

Goldsmith’s approach certainly allowed him to brag about “streamlining” local government. One of his many “reforms” was to get rid of the city’s lab, which–among other things– tested samples of the concrete and asphalt intended to be used by city contractors, to ensure it met specifications.

Evidently, we no longer have a state lab either...

The state’s infrastructure received a D+ rating by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Most recently, I-65 and State Road 156 have served as examples of Indiana’s crumbling roads and bridges, but Indiana’s infrastructure problems go far beyond those failures–we have over 1,900 structurally deficient bridges,  and a new report reveals the Indiana Department of Transportation approved asphalt ingredients that will significantly shorten the useful life of the roads on which they’re used.

The likely cost to Hoosier taxpayers is in the millions of dollars.

“In a cycle that should have two pavings, you have three pavings. That’s a lot of extra,” said Jason Heile, president of the Indiana Association of County Engineers and Supervisors.

INDOT is now testing the materials used, in order to determine whether they met the contract specifications–but this testing is after the fact. Had the testing occurred prior to the use of the asphalt in repaving, these huge costs could have been avoided.

We saved pennies by failing to test materials in advance. We’ll spend lots of pounds as a result.

It would really be nice to have elected officials who were more interested in actually governing than in grandstanding about how much money they are “saving” us.

 

Think “It Can’t Happen Here”? It Does.

According to recent media reports, a former Kansas state employee has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit, alleging that the employee’s dismissal was founded on her refusal to attend bible and prayer services in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office.

The defendants have admitted that regular evangelical church services were held in Secretary of State Kobach’s office–led by a “voluntary minister” with something called the “Capitol Commission,” a ministry focused solely on evangelizing Kansas’ government leaders.

I guess they missed that whole “no religious test for public office” part of the U.S. Constitution.

Coming on the heels of Kentucky’s Kim Davis (“I won’t do my job unless I can impose my religious views on others”) controversy, the news from Kansas has prompted a number of Hoosiers to shake their heads and make sympathetic noises–tsk-tsking not just about Kentucky and Kansas but also about presumed behaviors in other “backward” Bible Belt states.

As if it weren’t happening right here in Indiana.

I have former students working in the Pence Administration, and their stories are consistent and every bit as disturbing as those coming out of Kansas. These students report (nervously, after extracting sworn promises not to identify them or their agencies) receiving persistent email “invitations” to attend prayer meetings in the Governor’s office, being required to hire otherwise unqualified personnel who “go to the right church,” being criticized for the absence of bibles on their desks…and dealing with superiors who have no experience with or interest in governance and even less tolerance for public servants unwilling to approach their positions as “ministries.”

Several of those former students have left government, and they aren’t alone. (Although our crack media has failed to note or report on the matter, I’m told the turnover of agency executives during the Pence Administration has far exceeded the usual rate.)

If we still had reporters, an investigation of this Administration’s preoccupation with religion and its imposition of constitutionally forbidden religious tests would make interesting reading.

 

Indiana’s Economy–the Spin and the Reality

Indiana Governor Mike Pence has just bragged about the state’s surplus. We are supposed to consider the existence of that pot of money–that “rainy day” fund–as evidence of fiscal responsibility.

Not so much.

Assume I have a mortgage on my house, and I’m intent on building a savings account from which I can make future payments. Prudent fiscal management. Unless, of course, I have refused to repair the hole in the roof, because I’m saving the money for future house payments.

One of the biggest holes in the Hoosier roof is FSSA, which is being sued by caseworkers over huge caseloads that keep them from adequately protecting children. FSSA “reverted” 37 million dollars from its budget, so that the Governor could brag about his surplus. And it wasn’t just FSSA; here is a list of other “reversions” required by the Administration.

It’s amazing how much money you can save if you don’t deliver services.

And what about all those other “indicators” the Governor touts?

In the wake of the RFRA debacle and the subsequent hiring and firing of a PR firm that was supposed to repair the damage, there has been more interest than usual in what the numbers really say about Indiana’s economy.

Recently, the Indiana Democrat’s blog addressed what it called the Governor’s “Fuzzy Math.” It would be easy to dismiss its conclusions as partisan spin, and probably in anticipation of such dismissal, the posted article cited its source for each number.

The data is in table format, with the Governor’s statements on one side and the actual numbers on the other. There are several sections, but I was particularly struck by the response to Governor Pence’s assertions that Indiana is enjoying “historic” employment levels and that the Hoosier economy is “growing stronger every day.”

The blog shared the following data, from which we can all draw our own conclusions:

  • Since spring 2000, 500,000 more people have moved to Indiana while the employment participation rate has seen one of the largest declines in the nation.

[Indianapolis Star, 5.28.15]

  • New Indiana manufacturing jobs pay wages that are far lower than the national average – and are considered “lower-valued” in the manufacturing industry.

[Indianapolis Star, 6.10.15]

  • Indiana ranks 38th in the nation in per capita income.

[Indianapolis Star, 6.1.15]

  • Hoosiers make 86 cents to every one American dollar.

[Indianapolis Star, 6.1.15]

There are lots of ways to “slice and dice” economic data. It’s a question of focus–are we just trying to create an environment where business can keep costs down? Then the Governor is right:  Right to Work, a low minimum wage, and low business taxes are the way to go. (Although the numbers suggest those tactics aren’t producing many jobs.)

Do we want a state where workers can count on a living wage, a state where all workers, whatever their gender and/or ethnicity, are paid equally for equal work, a state where tax revenues are sufficient to provide a decent quality of life? If those are our goals, the numbers tell the story; we aren’t doing very well.

Do we want an Administration that provides essential public services in a businesslike fashion, or one presided over by a Governor who is focused upon image while ignoring the hole in the roof?

In case you hadn’t noticed, Mike, it’s raining.