Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. January 27, 2023.

Editorial: Revamping TANF needs to happen this session

We hope state Sen. Jon Ford’s persistence will finally pay off for low-income Hoosier families. The Terre Haute Republican’s bill to reset the income eligibility requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program received its second reading Thursday after clearing its committee on Jan. 23.

Ford has championed this TANF revamp since 2019. Last year’s bill passed the Senate 43-5, only to die in the House.

States individually determine income and benefit levels for the $206 million the state annually receives from a federal block grant established in 1996 as a replacement for Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

Due to the state’s restrictive policies, some of the poorest families don’t qualify for TANF, which is limited to recipients with household income, based on size, at no more than 17% of the federal poverty level.

Ford’s bill would raise income eligibility to 35% of the annual federal poverty level in 2026 and 50% by 2028. About 600 additional families would now be eligible. In a count last March, Indiana had more than 9,000 people receiving TANF funds – more than 8,000 were children.

If passed, the bill would increase the benefit to $248 per month for a child, up from $155 per month. Each additional child would receive $104, up from $65. Benefits will be indexed to inflation.

The small amount of cash TANF provides to families in poverty allows them to pay for necessities not covered by SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) – diapers, toilet paper and other personal hygiene items. It can also be used for case management services – including education and training – to help families climb out of poverty.

Compared to the rest of the country, Indiana has one of the nation’s lowest TANF-to-poverty ratios, spending less than 5% on direct assistance, well below the national average of 22.3%, according to a Congressional Research Service report from December. However, Indiana spends most of its federal TANF grant on in-direct support such as child care, services and benefits at rates well above the national average.

How much will this cost Hoosiers? Nothing, as the state would use unspent funds to pay for administration costs. According to the Legislative Services Agency, Indiana has $54.4 million in unspent aid.

Ford’s efforts are commendable, as inflation and the unraveling of COVID-related relief are hitting financially distressed families hard. And for Hoosiers, this is a much-needed long-term solution for a program that provides important temporary relief.


Anderson Herald Bulletin. January 30, 2023.

Editorial: Ingalls can’t get accustomed to critical audits

There are certain phrases that clerk-treasurers serving Indiana municipalities don’t want to read in an audit issued by the State Board of Accounts.

The unwanted words are basically:

“There were deficiencies found…”

“The SBOA requests reimbursement…”

“This report was forwarded to the Indiana Attorney General and the local prosecuting attorney.”

Each sentence signifies a serious and costly mistake, possibly even theft or official misconduct, by a government employee.

The town of Ingalls — comfortably nestled in southwestern Madison County — is familiar with these phrases.

In 2013, two former town employees were accused of selling town signs, batteries and equipment for scrap metal. The town did not have insurance coverage for employee dishonesty.

In 2020, two council members who also served on the Unified Development Ordinance Committee were asked to each reimburse $1,300 to the town. No records of committee meetings had been maintained and there was no documentation to support payments made to committee members.

Later that year, a litany of deficiencies were found. An audit noted that the town paid $64,967 to the Indiana Department of Revenue for past due utility receipt taxes that were unpaid from 2013 to 2015.

“Due to a lack of supporting documentation, we could not determine the amount of penalties and interest included within this payment,” read the audit.

Now in 2023, Ingalls has again faced rebuke by the SBOA.

To summarize the lengthy list, from January 2019 to October 2020, there were deficiencies monitoring such things as debit card use, maintaining an inventory of capital assets or giving employees proper training in handling funds.

Perhaps of most concern to town taxpayers is the town exceeding its appropriations for the Motor Vehicle Highway fund for 2019 and 2021, in the amounts of $62,401 and $94,835, respectively. In addition, disbursements exceeded appropriations for the General Fund in 2020, in the amount of $277,439.

And one phrase stands out in the audit noting that the SBOA has cautioned Ingalls previously: “A similar comment also appeared in a prior report…”

The town has been previously told to clean up its act. It can’t hide in a far corner of Madison County and expect to be overlooked or expect to live comfortably amid audits showing inconsistent town management.

Most of the deficiencies point to longtime Clerk-Treasurer Kip Golden’s operation and how funds are transferred and bills are paid.

Training is available through the SBOA and Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (formerly the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns). Educational opportunities should be pursued by any eligible officials.

Town leaders have attempted to attract business and industry. That was a chief reason for Ingalls extending its borders to Interstate 69.

But if business owners and residents begin realizing their taxes aren’t being properly controlled then, one asks, why would a new homeowner or industry build there?

Ingalls is a comfortable and convenient place to live and work. But the recent audit implies that some officials may be too complacent and don’t heed words or phrases critical of their small town.


Jeffersonville News and Tribune. January 25, 2023.

Editorial: Legislature should support education funding proposal

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for a record $1.2 billion increase for education funding over the next two years comes at a critical time for Hoosier schools.

About 95% of Indiana school superintendents responding to a recent survey by Equitable Education Solutions said they were dealing with a shortage of qualified teaching candidates.

“It is obvious we are not really solving the problem of the teacher shortage,” Terry McDaniel, Indiana State University professor emeritus of education, told the Tribune-Star in Terre Haute.

Holcomb supports raising the average Hoosier teacher salary from $56,600 to $60,000 annually. While teaching is a calling and not a career defined simply by pay, our educators deserve a respectable wage. If school systems can’t attract and retain qualified teachers, students suffer.

The governor’s ambitious plan directly targets other areas that need improvement, such as early literacy. Holcomb is calling for millions of dollars in additional investment in childhood reading programs and expanding the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Testing has shown significant drop-offs in reading proficiency, and that’s not a problem that can be solved without direct action.

Holcomb is also seeking to expand access to early education, an idea supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The governor’s plan is drawing bipartisan support, but will Indiana’s Republican supermajority approve it for the biennial budget? They certainly should.

Indiana can afford it. The state has enjoyed budget surpluses, and while giving Hoosiers some tax relief is good, investing in Indiana’s future should be the top priority.

Indiana needs this investment. Study after study has found that a qualified workforce is one of the biggest obstacles for the state’s economic future. Indiana can turn the tide in part by adequately funding schools, from proven programs that develop young minds to paying educators a better salary.

Indiana should support schools.

The pandemic and culture wars have put schools directly in the sights of politicians and parents, but most educators aren’t consumed by such topics. They just want to teach children and improve our future. If we can’t support that, then what does that say about us?

It’s time for Indiana to take a major step forward and begin leading in education. Students can’t be expected to keep up with their peers in other states without a better strategy. Holcomb’s proposal is a giant step in the right direction.