COLUMBIA CITY — State lawmakers representing Whitley County responded to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ State of the State Address, referring to his vision for Indiana’s immediate future as optimistic and ambitious.
According to Columbia City resident and State Sen. Jim Banks, Indiana Senate Republicans say their caucus stands ready to work with Gov. Mitch Daniels and other lawmakers to balance the state’s two-year state budget and to consider reforms outlined in the governor’s Tuesday speech.
“State lawmakers are continuing to work hard to maintain a balanced state budget and prioritize education and job creation,” said Banks in a press release issued following Daniels’ address.
“State and local governments must live within their means just as Hoosier families do every day. I look forward to tackling these important issues and representing constituents in Senate District 17 at the Statehouse.”
Banks said Daniels’ seventh State of the State called on lawmakers to pass legislation improving Indiana schools, reforming local government and updating the state’s criminal justice system.
“Most Senate Republicans are philosophically supportive of Daniels’ call to identify and reward successful teachers and principals,” said Banks.
On the issue of local government reform, the governor touted a possible change that according to Columbia City’s Kathy Heuer, is the focus of a bill she is authoring.
“Some of the changes are so obvious that our failure to make them is a daily embarrassment,” said Daniels.
“The conflict of interest when double-dipping government workers simultaneously sit on city or county councils, interrogating their own supervisors and deciding their own salaries, must end,” he said.
Heuer said today she submitted a bill dealing with that very problem.
“The bill will have to go through committee,” said Heuer.
The former local government stalwart was supportive of the governor’s speech.
“I think it was very ambitious, I think it was very positive,” she said.
“It obviously was reflective of what he’s been saying for the past year.”
Indiana Rep. Dan Leonard had thoughts not only on local government reform, but particularly on Daniels’ ideas for education reform.
Leonard said Daniels’ proposal to eliminate the three-member county commission in exchange for one commissioner was not very well received.
“He did not get a very warm reception from the General Assembly,” said Leonard.
“Quite frankly, I’m not aware of any problems we have with three county commissioners. I hate to mess with a system that’s working,” Leonard said.
Leonard said he hopes education reform will bring with it a reduction or elimination of disparities between school districts.
The Huntington-based lawmaker said the state currently doles out about $12,000 per student in the school corporations in Gary, while Indianapolis schools receive about $11,000.
In Columbia City, the amount is about $5,800, as is the case with Huntington schools and at Whitko, the amount is about $5,700, according to Leonard.
“I think there needs to be a leveling out of that,” Leonard said.
“I think the governor is saying about education that we need to get back to basics.”