On Wednesday, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced the House Republican agenda for the 2014 legislative session. From education to the skills gap, the agenda includes many issues that I believe are important for Indiana’s future.
One of the most crucial issues that the Speaker addressed was education. As a state representative, it is important to look beyond the present and invest in Indiana’s future. In order to invest in Indiana’s future, we must invest in Indiana’s children, and this starts at a young age. Indiana is one of only 10 states in the country that does not offer state-funded preschool programs. As a result, only 40 percent of Hoosier children age three to four are enrolled in preschool. We must expand early education opportunities for Hoosiers, so they have the best possible start to their academics.
While investing in Indiana’s future and our education system, we must also be mindful of the present. After graduation, students expect to enter the workforce. They cannot enter the workforce, however, if they don’t have the necessary skills to meet today’s demands. This is particularly a problem in Indiana. Sixty-seven percent of our manufacturing companies are currently reporting a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers. Fifty-six percent of these companies expect that shortage to worsen over the next three years. We must work to bridge this skills gap, so that we can not only help our citizens acquire an education, but help them acquire a job as well.
The job market is not independent of other issues. In industries such as tourism, retail sales and agriculture, 1.7 million jobs are dependent on the state’s transportation system and over $500 billion in goods traveled on Indiana roadways last year alone. Having a superior statewide transportation system is crucial to Indiana’s economy and future growth. Increasing our investment in roads would directly provide jobs through their design, construction and maintenance and would also allow us to realize further economic opportunities.
While addressing all of these issues, we, as a legislative body, must also take a critical look at the work that has been done before. Among the general public, there is great skepticism of the government’s ability to deliver services competently and cost-effectively. The best way to gauge whether or not what we are doing is necessary is to engage in only that which could not be accomplished more efficiently by the private sector. Indiana currently has many unnecessary and outdated laws and regulations on the books; laws and regulations that need to be repealed. Moving forward, we must continue to allow the free market to function and look for ways to trim the government.
I am encouraged by the announcement of the 2014 legislative agenda, and I look forward to being a part of these changes for the betterment of Indiana’s future. By addressing these issues, we can create a better, stronger Indiana that will continue to lead the rest of the nation by example. As has been our goal in the past, we want to make Indiana the best state in the country to live, work and raise a family; a goal we can all be proud of!