Cook: Roads, education top 2017 investments for the next generation

Posted by: Devan Strebing  | Friday, January 13, 2017 10:30 am

As the 2017 session starts, legislators in the House of Representatives are working to responsibly make the necessary investments in roads and education for the next generation.

One of the top responsibilities of state government is our road and highway system. Our roads are an invaluable resource to our state’s economy and we need to have quality infrastructure to keep jobs and investment here in Indiana.

Indiana has established pro-growth policies and tax cuts that give the state a strong economic advantage. Nonetheless, our economic competitiveness also hinges on the condition of our roads. Eighty percent of Indiana’s manufactured goods are transported on our roadways, but nearly 10 percent of those roads are in “poor” condition. How do lawmakers sensibly make the investments needed to address this priority?

House Republicans have proposed a responsible, comprehensive and sustainable road funding plan. It adequately invests in our roadways without depleting the state’s reserves or cutting into programs that depend on general fund dollars, such as education and public safety. Indiana needs on average an additional $1 billion annually over the next 20 years to improve and maintain our roads and bridges. It is important to enact a long-term plan so that the next generation does not have to struggle with crumbling infrastructure and backlogged maintenance. The next generation deserves a solution, not a Band-Aid on this issue.

Education is another top priority for legislators. Fifty-two percent of the Indiana state budget is directed toward K-12 education. That percentage is the second-highest in the nation, indicating how strong our commitment is to students and educators. However, less than 60 percent of public school expenditures reach the classroom. Not enough funding is working its way through the school administration system to direct instructional purposes, to the detriment of things like take-home pay for teachers or classroom technology. House Republicans want Hoosier resources to be used judiciously to ensure every student is receiving a high-quality education.

Many House Republicans are also in support of funding pre-K. Three years ago, we created a pilot program in five counties to provide high-quality pre-K to low-income children. The pilot has three more years, but we have proposed a responsible expansion of enrollment this year. Currently, Indiana has neither the capacity nor the resources to provide universal pre-K. Therefore, it’s imperative that state assistance go toward the very best programs serving children who are the most in need. I have seen the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and I fully support this program’s expansion.

In order to represent you to the best of my ability, I ask you to provide your feedback on some of the important issues we will be addressing this session. You can provide this feedback by completing my 2017 legislative survey, which was mailed to households and can also be filled out online at www.in.gov/h32.

I am ready to utilize my 40 years of experience in education to help make the right investments for the next generation. It is time for Indiana to prepare the path to ensure our state’s continued success. Please contact me with any questions or input at H32@iga.in.gov, or (317)232-9793 

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

A high-resolution photo of Cook can be downloaded by clicking here.