Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Jeffersonville News and Tribune. June 1, 2022.

Editorial: Indiana lawmakers should suspend gas tax

The price we pay at the pump is truly a bipartisan dilemma — a cost that affects each of us in several ways.

There’s the immediate pinch in our pockets when we buy fuel. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average price per gallon of gasoline for all grades was $4.69 on May 23. That cost is more than double the annual average of 2020, which was $2.25 per gallon.

But the effects of higher fuel prices don’t stop when we pull out of the gas station. Just about every sector of the economy, from air travel to groceries, is affected by fuel costs. And when prices go up, consumers take the hit.

With inflation at a record high, it’s time for the Indiana General Assembly and Gov. Eric Holcomb to provide some relief to Hoosiers by suspending the state’s gas tax.

The state’s tax collections have generated a large surplus, and to their credit, lawmakers have already acted to share the wealth. Many Indiana taxpayers stand to receive a $125 refund this summer.

Sadly, that amount of money won’t go far in today’s economy. Depending on the size of your vehicle, that refund might cover little more than a single tank of gas.

But with a temporary suspension of the state’s 32-cent-per-gallon gasoline license tax, Hoosiers could enjoy some real relief. While the tax is ultimately needed for road projects, a three-month pause of the levy would certainly be feasible.

State Democrats called for Holcomb to suspend the gas tax beginning in March, but Indiana law doesn’t allow him to do so without declaring an emergency. The path to suspending the gas tax runs through the legislature, and lawmakers should convene in special session to address the issue.

While Holcomb and Republican lawmakers have hinted at other means to help Hoosiers, suspending the gas tax would be one of the fastest ways to provide relief. And relief is needed.

Expanded SNAP benefits ended in May. The cost of living has rapidly increased with no end in sight. Though unemployment rates are low, wages are struggling to keep up with inflation, and that especially takes a toll on lower income families.

Indiana wouldn’t be the first state to suspend its gas tax. Over the past few months, Georgia, Connecticut, New York and Maryland have temporarily halted their gas taxes.

Indiana lawmakers in recent months have given much attention to divisive topics, but there’s nothing controversial about lowering gas prices. The temporary relief would likely lead to more spending, which would allow the state to recoup some of its losses in fuel revenue through the sales tax.

This is an area where lawmakers from both sides of the aisle can come together to help Hoosiers.

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Indianapolis Business Journal. June 3, 2022.

Editorial: Focus on international business will be important to economy

It took two years longer than expected, but state officials pulled off an impressive Indiana Global Economic Summit last week at the Indiana Convention Center, drawing some 800 people from about 30 countries to learn more about the state and participate in wide-ranging discussions about the world’s changing economy.

The four-day summit was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but, like almost all things that year, the event was postponed by the onset of the pandemic. And though some events started creeping back toward normalcy last year, a summit that depends on international travel would hardly have been viable in 2021.

It’s the latest move in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s efforts to boost Indiana’s presence internationally, work that has taken him on a dozen global trips, most recently to Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, where he spoke last month at the World Economic Forum annual meeting on a panel about advanced manufacturing.

In April, Holcomb and Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers went to Sweden, the United Kingdom and Monaco. A few weeks earlier, the pair traveled to Slovakia and Israel.

We believe these trips are an essential part of the state’s economic strategy—and we encourage Holcomb and Chambers to keep putting miles on their frequent flier cards.

The opportunities are too good to pass up, especially as the world’s supply chains shift. More companies want to manufacture goods closer to their customers—and they want their suppliers to be closer to them.

So, foreign companies doing business in the U.S. are looking for places to establish new operations—which could attract associated plants.

And domestic companies are interested in bringing some of their foreign suppliers to the U.S., to keep their operations closer to home.

What better way to persuade company leaders that Indiana is the place to do business than to look them in the eye and shake their hands—or invite them to a summit in Indiana that ends with a trip to the Indianapolis 500.

(Side note: Kudos to the state’s brilliant decision to tie its global summit to the Indianapolis 500, the state’s best-known event and one that draws substantial international participation and interest.)

Do these kinds of efforts require substantial investments of time and money? You bet. But the payoffs can also be huge—not just because a company might make an investment in a single plant, but because the long-term relationships forged with such trips can continue to pay dividends year after year.

We urge Holcomb and the IEDC to go all-in on attracting foreign investment, whether that involves bringing global business leaders to Indiana or traveling internationally to find them. Of course, that’s not meant to say state officials shouldn’t be equally invested in domestic companies. But we’re confident they can do both.

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South Bend Tribune. June 5, 2022.

Editorial: Transparency is a concept. Finding on local school task force makes it real

Transparency is just a concept until events make it real, reads a line in a Tribune comment from a few months back.

A recent finding involving the meetings of a local school district’s task force is one such moment.

A Tribune story last week by Carley Lanich reported a state official’s finding that the South Bend district’s facility planning task force should meet in public. The group, formed as a part of an effort to create a long-term plan for building use in a district decreasing in size, has previously met four times in closed session.

School representatives had said they didn’t believe the meetings were subject to Indiana’s Open Door Law, which sets requirements for public observation and notice of government meetings. The district expressed concern that applying the law to such groups would “chill community involvement.”

But Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, appointed by the governor, said the group is “doing the work of the school corporation” and called it “inappropriate” to do that work in secret. He stopped short of saying previous closed task force meetings violated state law.

Britt’s finding came in response to a formal complaint filed last month by The Tribune. As we’ve said before, such complaints are about the public’s right to know and, in this case, the public’s right to have a seat at the table as its school district — administrators and hired consultants — develop a plan that is likely to include a school closing.

Members of the community should be able to exercise that right, as school leaders say they will comply with a state official’s recent finding. And it’s worth pointing out that Britt says he’s not seen an example in the state where opening up meetings has had a chilling effect on involvement.

That’s good to hear, because what really chills involvement is when public officials exclude community members from critical parts of the process.

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