Indiana’s Legislature officially starts business Jan. 3.

One of our region’s two state senators, Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has compiled a list of the 10 major issues he expects will be addressed in this year’s session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Without attempting to change the order of his list, we present it with our comments.

1. “Maintaining Indiana’s balanced budget.” Most of his colleagues likely would agree with Kruse on this one. Indiana rightly takes pride in its $2 billion budget surplus, which makes us the envy of other states. It doesn’t really need to get any bigger. It gives us a cushion for emergencies, and it should take an emergency such as the 2008 recession to make us dip into it.

2. “Passing a balanced budget amendment to the state constitution.” Gov. Mike Pence first proposed this in 2015. He said Indiana “remarkably” is one of just a few states without a balanced budget requirement in its state constitution. Yet somehow, many “balanced budget” states are in the red, anyway, and we aren’t. Most experts say our state’s constitution already does enough by prohibiting debt except in dire circumstances. That’s worked for more than 160 years. Amending the state constitution takes a major effort, and even many conservatives wonder if it’s worth the work to add a rule on top of a rule.

3. “Providing long-term road funding for Indiana’s future.” This could be the real No. 1 headline-maker in 2017. Legislators will be torn between their desire to improve roads and their reluctance to raise taxes. Pence found a way to pay for roads without a tax increase this year, but it likely was a one-time trick.

4. “Replacing ISTEP.” If anything can find unanimous support in the Legislature, this is it. But when you move to the next question — how to replace ISTEP — the going gets tougher. Legislators helped make this mess with their notion that one test can tell us everything about school quality.

5. “Addressing pre-K by expanding Indiana’s current pilot program in a financially responsible way and making sure it is leading to good academic results for participants.” Everybody loves the idea of free, state-sponsored pre-kindergarten education for low-income children. Pilot programs in five counties developed long waiting lists. Expanding pre-K statewide would be expensive, so look for legislators to grow the program to 10 counties.

6. “Supporting schools in attracting and retaining great teachers.” Money is not the only thing when it comes to solving a teacher shortage, but it’s the main thing. Indiana lags behind neighboring states in average teacher pay. For a lower-cost solution, the state could offer incentives to new teachers.

7. “Continuing to take steps to address Indiana’s drug-abuse epidemic.” This problem needs a short-term fix to help a growing, new crop of addicts. It also needs a long-term solution to keep so many people from turning to drugs.

8. “Expanding local community corrections programs as an alternative to prison for low-level, non-violent offenders.” Does Indiana want to save money, both short-term and long-term? Keep nonviolent offenders out of expensive jails and prisons. Give them skills and motivation so they don’t end up in criminal courts again.

9. “Continuing to fund improvements for the Indiana Department of Child Services.” Few things could be more important than making sure children are safe from the consequences of adults’ bad choices. Are you a fiscal conservative? Then invest in breaking the cycles of crime and poverty.

10. “Addressing child abuse that occurs in schools — expanding background check requirements, making sure convicted school employees are reported to the Indiana Department of Education.” Hoosiers deserve to feel confident that when they send their children off to school, the kids are going to a safe and positive place.

© 2020 KPCNews, Kendallville, IN.