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Let’s Talk About Cuts

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Indiana has $1 billion in annual road need.   The anti-tax crowd says don’t raises taxes, use existing budget dollars.  Ok, that’s fine, let’s see if we can take $1 billion out of the state budget.

According to State Budget Agency, Indiana spent $30 billion in fiscal year 2016.   Wow, that’s a lot of money, Abdul.  And $1 billion of that is only three percent, anyone can cut three percent of anything and do just fine.  Right?

Well, not really.  You have to breakdown that $30 billion because there’s some money you can use, and some money you can’t touch.

Out of that $30 billion, more than $12 billion is federal funding that goes to specific purposes so you can’t touch that.

So $30 billion – $12 billion = $18 billion.

Okay Abdul, we still have $18 billion to play with and $1 billion of $18 billion is five percent and you can still take five percent out of anything and survive just fine.

Not so fast!

Out of that $18 billion, you have to take out $3 billion in dedicated funds, these are dollars that must go to specific purposes because of they way they are raised, i.e. current gas taxes which go for the roads, environmental permit fees go to pay for the inspections. By the way, half that $3 billion goes to transportation.

So where are we now?

$18 billion – $3 billion = $15 billion.  Actually the number is $14,786,728,600.00, but who’s counting.*

Now let’s do some math.

$1 billion / $15 billion = 6% of the general operating fund.  So let’s start cutting that six percent and let’s do it across the board so it’s “fair”.

Education is the state’s biggest expenditure so let’s start there.  We spend about $9.7 billion on K-12 and higher ed, and six percent of that is $582,000,000 so schools, colleges and universities will take the biggest hit and we still have $418,000,000 to go.

Your next biggest expense is Health & Human Services (FSSA, Child Protective Services, drug treatment programs, etc.)  They come in at $3.1 billion and a six percent cut there would be $186,000,000.

$582,000,000 + $186,000,000 =  $768,000,000

So we we’ve cut money to schools, human services, programs help the truly needy and address  the heroin and opioid crisis in Indiana and we still have to find $232,000,000 to pay for roads. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.  I hope.

Your next biggest expenditure is public safety (State Police, Corrections, Homeland Security), that’s about $952,000,000 and six percent of that is $57,000,000, but what’s a few more rapists, murderers and child molesters running the streets, right?  Cutting six percent of general government functions (The Governor, Legislature, state agencies) gets you about $35,000,000.  Doing the same for disbursements, like those to local governments, gets you another $9.5 million.

So where are now?  $232,000,000 – $101,500,000  = $130,500,000.

We’re almost there, maybe

The next two items are the environment and economic development, they total about $164 million and a six percent cut there only gets you $9.8 million.

So we’re still short more than $120 million.

The only area left is the general funds in the transportation budget but it wouldn’t make any sense to cut six percent out of a budget that you’re going to put money back into.

So after cutting money to schools, public safety and services to the poor, children and disabilities, to pay for roads, we’re still short $120 million if we do across the board six percent cuts.

Hmm, maybe this isn’t as simple as some people would like for it to be.

*Using $14.7 billion as a starting number would actually mean 6.7% in cuts to general appropriations, I figured with as much heartburn six percent in cuts would do, there was no reason in making life worse for some of you.  And by the way, dipping into the nearly $2 billion reserves only pays for two years of road funding.

Giving the Mayor a Grade

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

As some of you know one of the jobs I have is I teach college and at the end of every semester my students get a grade.  Well, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has completed his  first full year in office and it’s time to give him a grade.

Now the way I decided to do this is to look at what the Mayor is most proud of with his accomplishments and take it from there.  And luckily for me, I got a recent copy of a political fundraising  e-mail he sent out to his fellow Democrats and other supporters which will make for the perfect starting point.

The Mayor touted four  programs in the e-mail…

  • Project Indy, a summer youth jobs program that employed 1,000 young people across the city.
  • Funding two new IMPD recruit classes and bringing back community based policing.
  • Ending the decades-long ban on streetlights and tearing down more abandoned homes than in the last two years.
  • Passing a budget that cut the city’s $50 million structural deficit in half and spent less than the last budget.

Not bad for the new Mayor, but to give him the right grade, we to take a look at a couple other items.

First, the budget.  The Mayor is right when he says the current budget spent less than the last.  Hogsett’s budget spent about $13 million less in this budget than the previous administration, $12.7 million to be exact.  However, this is where we need to throw a little perspective into the picture.  The city budget went from $1.103 billion to $1.091 billion, or a decrease of 1.15 percent.   That’s like my wife telling me instead of spending $110.30 on a new dress she spent $109.10.    I do agree you have to start somewhere, but I wouldn’t have tried to make too much of this point.

In addition, the “reduction” in the structural deficit ($55 million to $23.8 million) is also a little more involved upon closer inspection.   One could argue, and I have in the past, that part of that structural hole was plugged, in part, with $13 million in state funds as part of a one-time distribution of local option income taxes.   And the city reduced its contribution to its rainy day fund by about $17 million which one could also (and I did) argue helped close some of that shortfall.

Now let’s talk about public safety.

When it comes to public safety, the Mayor did find funding for two new recruit classes, but some of that is offset by retirements and other departures from the force.  By last count, the next two recruit classes will bring in about 86 new recruits, but the city expects 55 officers to leave the force, even though past history tends to show that number is above 60, at the end of the day there’s only a net increase of about 30 officers.  Luckily, IMPD will make an effort to make sure the number of  new hires is above 85.  But that unfortunately is overshadowed by the city’s record murder rate (149/150 depending on how you do the math).  The Mayor ran on a public safety platform and unfortunately on his watch the city has seen the largest number of murders in its history.

So when we take all this into account what grade does the Mayor get?

For now, it’s a B-/C+.  He gets credit for taking steps to add to the police force,  nearly 90 new street lights in badly needed neighborhoods,  focusing on mental health and drug addiction as part of the criminal justice strategy, summer jobs and street lights, putting a halt to the Council’s ill timed pay raise proposal,  but he loses points because of the record the murder rate and some of what could be labeled “ creative accounting” when it comes to budget.

However, the nice thing about all this is that when we do this again next year at this time, like my college students, I only expect the Mayor to improve.

My Top 10 of 2016

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well as tradition dictates, it’s time for me to do my  top 10 state and local stories of 2016.  Of course most of this occurs in the shadow of President-Elect Donald’s Trump’s victory, so with that said, here we go…

  1.    Voters Turn Down Our IPS’ BS.  – IPS reform advocates win three out four seats on the school board, keeping the district moving forward instead of putting it on a path  back to when officials were more concerned about hiring their family members than educating kids.
  1. Getting the Vapors – The fight over vaping regulations goes from the Statehouse to the FBI and back to the Statehouse as lawmakers get ready to change the rules back to something more reasonable, once again proving there’s nothing like the possibility of jail time to get folks on the straight and narrow.
  1. Massive Votes for Mass Transit – Not only did the referendum win 60-40 in Marion County, it carried 19 of the 25 Council districts and 79 percent of the precincts.  Of course it doesn’t help that funding for the Red Line is caught up in D.C. budget battles,  but hey, you take your wins where you can them and this one was pretty big.
  1. Road to Somewhere – Indiana lawmakers actually came up with responsible, long-term proposal to address the state’s road funding needs.  A mix of adjusted for inflation tax increases, tolling and bonding just might be what the state needs to address its more than $1 billion worth of road funding needs.  Now it’s time to step on the gas and get moving.
  1.  Murder by Numbers – Although he ran on public safety, Indy Mayor Joe Hogsett is the unfortunate winner of the most murders in Indianapolis history award.  Despite efforts to attack crime holistically, we still saw 146 murders in the city and there are two days to go as we  write this.
  1. King of the Hill – You gotta give it to Indiana Attorney General-Elect Curtis Hill.  He led the top of the ticket not only getting nearly 100,000 more votes than Donald Trump, but he was the highest votegetter in state history.  Some Democrats tried to say the only reason he did so well was because a lot of Hoosiers didn’t know he was black.  That’s funny, because some people said the opposite about Barack Obama in 2008 when he won Indiana.
  1. The Goodbye Girl – When Glenda Ritz beat Tony Bennett back in 2012, her staff was rumored to say they never saw it coming.   Fast forward four years and they ended up saying the same thing.
  1. Bayh, Bayh Evan  –  Who would have thought when Evan Bayh who walked into the U.S. Senate race with $9 million and a 21-point lead would end up losing by nearly 10-points to Todd Young?    Not a lot of people, but that’s the great thing about politics, no matter how long you practice it, you can still be pleasantly surprised.   And some of us will argue that no matter how excited Republican are that Bayh lost, there are probably even more Democrats  who are happy that he is now gone for good.  However, Bayh did get one consolation prize, he got more votes than Hillary Clinton.
  1. Run Eric, Run  – Eric Holcomb might be only politician in recent  Indiana history to run for three offices all in the same 12-month window.  He started out running for the U.S. Senate, got picked for Lt. Governor when Sue Ellspermann headed over to Ivy Tech and then stepped up when Mike Pence was picked to be Donald Trump’s running mate.  And while you can’t deny the Trump Tsunami, Holcomb was a good candidate who was surrounded by a good team and they did it all in about 100 days.  If only all campaigns were like this one.
  1. Mike Pence – The only other comeback this fascinating was the Chicago Cubs winning this year’s World Series.

 

 

Ask Not for Whom the Road Tolls

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

If Indiana wants to fully address its road funding problem, it is going to seriously have to include toll roads as part of that equation.

Right now, the state has about $1.1 billion worth of road funding needs.  There are numerous proposals on the table to help close that gap; an increase in the gas tax (adjusted for inflation), shifting all the sales tax revenue on gasoline to go towards road funding (however some key lawmakers aren’t crazy about that), using some sort of tracking measurement on vehicles so they would pay by the mile (tin foil hat wearers are now on high alert).   Unfortunately, that might not be enough and the state is looking at millions of unmet road needs.

So what’s the answer, or at least part of the answer?  Toll Roads.

Say what?  Yes, toll roads.  They address two major issues; they give you a stable source of long-term road funding revenue and it also captures out of state traffic and doesn’t put the bulk of the burden on the locals.  Allow me to elaborate.

First of all, a toll road is the ultimate user fee.  You don’t pay the toll unless you use the road. Indiana is the crossroads of America and within a day’s drive of 80 percent of the country; that’s a lot of people using the roads who aren’t necessarily helping pay for them.

Secondly, toll roads can provide a reliable long-term funding mechanism, because regardless of how many miles someone can get to the gallon or to the charge in their electric vehicle, they still have to use the roads.

Third, and some could argue most importantly, under current federal rules while you can toll for bridge improvements and the roads connected to them, a government can’t implement tolls until AFTER the work is done (take a look at recent bridge work on the Ohio River to see what I mean).  So yes, while you would be paying for a road, you can see what you’re paying for and that can go a long way at times to make people feel better.

Now exactly how the tolls would work in Indiana would remain to be seen because there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, such as where do you toll, how much do you toll, do you toll in urban areas like 465 in Indianapolis or 469 in Ft. Wayne, do you use an electronic toll pass or the old fashion crossing guard arm and do you toll at every entrance or exit ramp?  And what about the people who don’t want to pay a toll so they get off the interstate and clog up your state roads?

These are a lot of questions.  But when you look at the fact that not only does Indiana have more than $1 billion of unmet road needs; just to maintain what already exists is going to cost and extra $368 million over what’s being budgeted right now.  And if you want to finish what was started on I-69 and US 31, you’re going to need an additional $138 million.  Oh and what the heck, let’s throw in some future projects such as additional lanes on interstates and taking care of some state roads you may as well throw in at least another $470 million.

Does anyone seriously think this can be mitigated alone by gas taxes?  No, because no serious person would think that.   There are some estimates that if you literally tolled everything humanly possible that you could  in Indiana you could raise about $1.138 billion, or literally all of the state’s road needs, but that’s not practical.  Nor is raising the gas tax 26 cents per gallon because that is what you need to do to get that same amount of money.  At the end of the day, the responsible way to do this is with a mix of funding options and the use of tolls should be one of them.

And if you will allow me to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, and you knew this was coming, ask not for whom the road tolls, it tolls for all of us.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org.

Carrier, It’s More Complicated Than You Think

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Whenever I am asked whether the deal reached between the incoming Trump administration and United Technologies (UT) to keep 1,000 Carrier manufacturing jobs in Indianapolis was a good or bad idea, my answer is “it’s complicated”.   

There are multiple elements to this news.   If I may steal a line from my good friend, Dr. Matt Will at the University of Indianapolis, there’s the personal element, the public relations element and the economic element.  

First the personal, if you are one of the 1,069 individuals whose job was saved for now, you are pretty darn happy and a lot of us are happy for you.  However, if you’re one of the other 1,100 jobs that have been lost or in the process of being sent south of the border, we feel your pain.

Second is the public relations element, for Donald Trump and Mike Pence this is major victory they can claim and they haven’t even gotten out of the gate yet.  For Carrier, they generate a lot of good will for keeping some jobs in America and that will translate into sales.  On the other hand, what happens in the next instance where jobs are going to be lost?  Will the new administration be able to step in?  For example, the workers at Rexnord, not too far from Carrier are wondering who is going to intervene on their behalf?

Thirdly, and I would argue most important, is the economic element,  Yes, anytime you can keep 1,000 jobs in an area you are going to have a positive impact on the nearby economy.  Also the $7 million the state is providing in performance based incentives over 10 years will be cheaper than the estimated $10,140,000 it could end up paying in unemployment insurance over a 26-week period if all those workers to file and stay on for the full time.  And there’s Carrier’s business model and the response from Wall Street.  When UT announced earlier this year it was shipping jobs to Mexico its stock traded at about $86 per share.  Most recently that number was more than $108.  We’ll see how long that lasts going forward.

And there are lot of questions that go into this mixed bag.  What kind of precedent is being set?  Will this give companies an excuse to strongarm state and local governments into concessions by threatening to leave.  Does this give American workers in the manufacturing sector new hope that their jobs that might be on the line will be saved?  Or will this stifle automation and efficiency that is necessary to keep an industry competitive?   And do we really want our governments “suggesting” to private industry that if they do something the government doesn’t approve “life might get difficult for them”.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the Carrier agreement.  And not only are they complicated, but we may not know the answers for quite a while.

HIP, HIP, HOORAY!!!

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Back in June,  the IBJ reported how the Pence administration was bumping heads with the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) over HIP 2.0, the state’s alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The two sides could not agree on how the program should be evaluated.

My how things have changed.

President-elect Donald Trump is naming Seema Verma as the new head of CMS.  

Verma is the architect of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), the nation’s first consumer directed Medicaid program under Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and then Governor Mike Pence’s HIP 2.0 waiver proposal.

Since its inception, the program has enrolled more than 400,000 low-income Hoosiers.

Also, according to a recent study, nearly 7 out of 10 first-year members participated in the HIP Plus program, meaning they chose to make contributions into their POWER Accounts (health savings-like accounts). More than 62 percent of members whose incomes were at or below the federal poverty level participated in HIP Plus. Forty percent of HIP Plus members say they check the balance of their POWER Account each month.   The program also offers a Gateway to Work program, which connects Hoosiers to workforce training programs and potential employers.

There were serious questions about whether HIP 2.0 would survive in a Hillary Clinton administration.   Now with new management in charge, it looks like the program will not only survive, but become a model for the rest of the country as the new Congress looks to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Indiana GOP Should Abort Bad Idea

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I have always felt that here in Indiana, Republicans worst enemies aren’t Democrats or progressives, but themselves.

This became abundantly clear when I read State Representative Curt Nisly of Goshen wants to introduce a bill that would put a rape victim in jail for having an abortion if she became pregnant due to the sexual assault.

Nisly’s proposal would criminalize all abortions and allow prosecutors to file criminal charges against the doctor and the woman having the procedure.   While the purpose of this might be to eventually get to a Donald Trump Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade overturned, but at the end of the day we are talking about charging a woman with murder because she was a victim of rape who became pregnant and had the pregnancy terminated.

Are you *&^#$@^*@ kidding me?!

It’s bad enough RFRA, which nearly destroyed the Republican Party, Mike Pence’s political career and nearly gave John Gregg the Governor’s residence is being re-litigated because some folks want to be able to discriminate against the LGBT community, but they can’t use RFRA to do it.

Now there’s a proposal being floated that would make the victim of rape or incest as much a criminal as her attacker.  I take that back, she would be even more of a criminal because a person convicted of rape, depending on the circumstances, can get either 6-20 years in prison or 20-50 years if it’s aggravated.  A person convicted of murder gets 45 years, life or the death penalty.

Luckily, the Republican leadership in the Statehouse realizes there are a lot more pressing matters, such as road funding, opioid abuse, student assessment and maintaining the state’s fiscal health as we are long overdue for a recession.

No good is ever going to come from putting a rape victim behind bars.   And if Republicans don’t want to eventually share the same fate as their Democratic counterparts, they should abort this nonsense and stay focused on more pressing issues.

 

2016’s Biggest Winners and Losers

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

So now that we’ve had a week to digest the election results, it’s time to pick the winners and losers of 2016.   This list is not all inclusive and you are free to add anyone you think we should have.

Winners

Mike Pence, Vice-President Elect

  • Rumors of Mike Pence’s political demise were grossly exaggerated.  A year ago a lot of people across this state were writing his political obituary; today they’re calling him Mr. Vice-President Elect.

Todd Young, U.S. Senator-Elect

  • He didn’t let the Bayh name or brand scare him off.  He took the fight right to Evan and won.

Eric Holcomb, Governor Elect

  • Just like Pence, a year ago people were writing off his U.S. Senate candidacy.  Now they’re writing letters of congratulations to the next Governor.

Curtis Hill, Attorney General Elect

  • He not only led the ticket (even surpassing Trump) in votes, but by our last check he was the highest vote getter in Indiana history. (And by the way, he’s African-American)

Jennifer McCormick, Superintendent of Public Instruction

  • Need we say more?

Brian Bosma, House Speaker

  • He kept his super majority.

David Long, Senate President Pro Tempore

  • He expanded his super majority.

John Ruckelshaus & Cindy Kirchhofer

  • Proof that Republicans can win in Marion County with the right message and right candidates.

Jeff Cardwell (State GOP Chair)

  • He got a lot of grief early on Chairman, but winning big and having one of your best friends be the next Vice-President solves a multitude of problems.

Trevor Foughty/Mike O’Brien

  • These guys ran campaigns that at the start seemed uphill against Evan Bayh and John Gregg and they finished on cruise control on Election night.

Tony Samuel/Rex Early/Susie Jawoworski

  • You gotta give it up for Team Trump.

Christina Hale, Democratic Lt. Governor Candidate

  • Her statewide run gave her the exposure needed to help start the rebuilding process and earn a role in establishing new leadership.

Scott Pelath, House Democratic Leader

  • He actually grew his caucus, albeit by one seat.   But then again, when everyone else was on the Titanic, being on the Andrea Doria doesn’t look to bad.

Education Reform

  • See Jennifer McCormick

Luke Kenley, Republican State Senator & Donna Schaibley, State Rep.

  • They were two biggest statehouse vote getters.   Kenley got 48,648 votes and  Schaibley got more than 29,000 votes, more than any House member.

Joe Donnelly, U.S. Senator

  • He becomes the leader of his party as the highest elected official, but even better he doesn’t have to face a mid-term election under a Clinton presidency.

Trey Hollingsworth

  • To the Tennessean go the spoils.

Indy Mass Transit Expansion Proponents

  • Not only did they win, but they won in 19 of the 25 Council Districts, including Joe Simpson and Christine Scales who opposed the referendum.

And the Losers Are…

Evan Bayh

  • He took a 20-point lead and turned it into into a 13-point loss.   Yes, there was a lot of outside money spent, but Bayh didn’t help with how he addressed the lobbying and residency issues.

John Gregg

  • It is true, the sequels are usually never better than the originals

Glenda Ritz

  • Her loss in 2016 was just like her win in 2012, she never expected it.

Indiana Democratic Party

  • They went retro when the voters wanted to go forward and now their Twitter account has gone silent.

ISTA

  • They spent millions of their members’ take home pay over the last four cycles and not only do they have nothing to show for it, but they’ve lost ground and created a lot of enemies who used to support them.

Labor Unions

  • They spent a lot of money on candidates their members did not vote for.

The Far Right

  • The same people who brought you RFRA now find themselves with a Governor who has no appetite for any of that stuff.  They spent money and effort to beat Senator David Long in a primary and now he has an even bigger majority.   They also backed Jennifer McCormick’s opponent at the state convention.

Tim Lanane

  • If his caucus gets any smaller you’ll need an electron microscope to see them.

Jeff Harris, Gregg campaign spokesman  

  • In 2008 it was Jill Long Thompson, now it’s John Gregg.  Good luck in 2020.

Editor’s Note

 We did not include State Auditor Suzanne Crouch in the winners spot because she was our “break even” nominee.  If Holcomb won she moved up the ladder, if he lost she was still Auditor and would have been doing battle with John Gregg as Governor.

Seven Arrests at Indy Anti-Trump Rally

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

WIBC reports that what started as a mostly peaceful anti-Donald Trump protest at the State House in downtown Indianapolis ended with the police dispersing the crowd Saturday evening. Seven people were arrested and two Indianapolis police officers were hurt.

Chief Troy Riggs said in a news conference that most of the people peacefully exercised their 1st Amendment rights. But, two groups broke off from the main crowd when the protest moved to Monument Circle. One of those groups threatened violence toward the police and eventually started throwing objects at officers.

Two cops were hurt. Riggs said those injuries were minor.

“They have a right to protest and we supported that right to protest, even though numerous ordinances and numerous laws were broken tonight with that protesting, blocking traffic, making it difficult for individuals to maneuver in the streets,” said Riggs.

He said arrests did not happen until threats were made against police officers and some people made good on those threats.

“We do have a reports that some of the protesters showed up with backpacks full of rocks.”

He said if you have any video of that or info on that, to call police.

Major Richard Riddle, with IMPD said that the area where violence against the police officers happened was near Washington and Illinois streets.

Some Post-Election Results

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

There were a lot of story lines out of Election night,Trump’s victory, the GOP Sweep, but we think the most under-reported story line was the fact that highest vote getter in the state of Indiana in 2016 was not Donald Trump, but Attorney General Elect Curtis Hill.  Take a look at these results…

  • Curtis Hill – 1,642,555
  • Donald Trump – 1,556,122
  • Todd Young – 1,422,962
  • Jennifer McCormick – 1,420,075
  • Eric Holcomb – 1,396,409
  • Glenda Ritz –  1,238,685
  • John Gregg – 1,234,500
  • Evan Bayh – 1,157,645
  • Hillary Clinton – 1,036,426
  • Lorenzo Arrendondo – 993,183

I think it says quite a bit that Hill, an African-American, was the highest voteg etter, but according our research, he got more votes than anyone else in Indiana history.

I think it also says quite a bit that  Clinton only got 43,000 more votes than Judge Arrendondo and Ritz actually outperformed Bayh and Gregg.

What do you think?