When the governor delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday night, he was talking to an eager audience.
Fortunately, he brought up many issues that are on my mind and the minds of Hoosiers: job creation, education reform and the budget.
We know that Indiana is in the middle of a recession, but we need to focus on what we need to do to get us moving in the right direction.
Even though Indiana has been a leader in job creation, it still was not enough to push us out of a recession. Thankfully, our state has a fighting spirit, and we refuse to sit and do nothing. As the governor said, "We Hoosiers don't like to wait, when we can act."
When Indiana suffered a $2 billion drop in state revenues, the legislature went back to its Hoosier values to get its priorities in order, separating necessary spending from "nice to do" spending, in the words of the governor. This is something many families in the state have had to do - live within our means, so we can create a balanced budget.
All across our state, we have won bids that will make us the home of several new companies, but it still was not enough.
Gov. Daniels explained that the quality of schools plays a large role in persuading those companies to choose us as their home. I agree. In addition to low taxes, companies interested in relocating also want to make sure their children and their employees' children receive an adequate education.
Additionally, if we are we going to attract revenue-boosting jobs, we have to make sure our own citizens are qualified to fill those positions. We've seen many students put at a disadvantage because their school system failed to prepare them for the workforce or to further their education.
Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, challenged us to find ways to get more education for our money, instead of figuring out how to get more money for our education. I take that challenge seriously.
Fifty-four percent of the state budget goes towards funding education, and it is our responsibility to find a more effective way to use every cent of those education dollars. It is our job as legislators to consider Dr. Bennett's recommendations, and then decide what we think will better serve Indiana's students.
Something I keep going back to is parent involvement. We can encourage parents to be more involved in the lives of their student. With poor test scores and high dropout rates, parents play a vital role in a student's educational success.
Although education was the main focus Tuesday, he also mentioned reforming our criminal justice system. As someone who served in law enforcement, I was pleased to see the governor take a stance to ensure that lawbreakers are incarcerated in a more logical way, where their place of punishment matches "their true danger to society." It calls for tougher punishment for the worst offenders.
Reform in the criminal justice system will also better protect our state. If we keep those in jail who pose a serious harm to society, it will result in safer streets, safer neighborhoods and ultimately, safer cities and towns. For those who can be rehabilitated after serving their sentence, we need to provide them with resources to help them not be repeat offenders.
As legislators, we have a lot to accomplish this session. We heard what the voters had to say in November, and the governor enforced those same points on Tuesday night.
Reform and responsibility are necessary to continue to strengthen Indiana. Consider this our call to action.