They settled on three main priorities for the state:
• an educated workforce;
• an environmentally sound energy policy; and
• a balanced tax policy.
First, they laid out the challenges:
• In 2010, Indiana’s per capita personal income had fallen to only 85.2 percent of the national average, down from 90.6 percent in 2000 and 92.7 percent in 1980. The recession had a lot to do with that, but we fared worse than most of our neighbors (except Michigan) during the recession.
• Hoosiers have lagged behind our neighbors in educational achievement. Within the Midwest, Indiana has the lowest percentage of people age 25 and older with bachelor’s degrees or advanced degrees.
• Because of our heavy industry and coal-based electricity supply, Indiana could be among the states hit hardest by potential laws controlling carbon-dioxide emissions.
The report lays out an extensive game plan. We have room to hit some highlights here, and we’ll go into greater detail in future editorials.
To help meet education goals, the report calls for merging the senior year of high school with the freshman year of college for college-bound students. It sets a goal that two-thirds of Indiana students should leave high school with at least six college credits.
The report criticiizes recent cuts in state funding for higher education, calling that “a message of indifference” toward a key asset.
Goals for energy policy include developing Indiana’s potential for biofuels made from corn residue and switchgrass.
The report also suggests encouraging production of electric vehicles and their storage batteries in Indiana.
To promote both electric vehicles and energy conservation, the report suggests using time-based pricing for electricity. That would encourage owners to recharge their cars overnight and other off-peak uses of power.
Ideas for tax policy include applying Indiana’s sale taxes to services, so we could reduce our relatively high 7 percent sales tax rate.
The report says Indiana should reduce or eliminate its tax on business equipment and machinery, so we can compete with Ohio and Illinois, which have no such tax.
In a change that might sound unpopular right now, the report suggests raising Indiana’s tax rate on gasoline — currently the lowest in the Midwest. The report says we’re running out of money to pay for highways.
We hope Hoosier leaders are listening. We need to look beyond the short-term thinking that tends to drive elections. We can’t continue to fall behind our neighbors in education and earning power.