January 11, 2002
Alliance for Indiana's Future announces vision for 21st century
Indianapolis Today, several business, economic development, education, real estate, agriculture and community leaders announced the creation of the Alliance for Indiana's Future. Joe Barnette, immediate past-president of Bank One and past chairperson of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership stated, "The Alliance is a unique and unprecedented coalition that will involve all business sectors, our public schools, higher education, agriculture and local government."
The Alliance includes: Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Indiana Association of Realtors, Indiana Bankers Association, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Health Industry Forum, Indiana Metropolitan Mayors' Alliance, Indiana Research & Development Coalition, Indiana State Teachers Association, Indiana University and Purdue University.
Barnette stated, "We have come together, because we know that our state is at a crisis point. We are asking that they give us strong, courageous and enlightened leadership.
"We do not pretend to have all the answers, but we are certain that a lack of action by our elected officials in the current legislative session will be disastrous for the state," Barnette continued. "Our problems will not go away, and we can't leave them for someone else to solve. We want action. We want you to recognize the problems that are obvious to all of us and to every citizen and we want you to use the power we have given you to solve those problems."
Barnette outlined five principles identified by the Alliance as keys to a strategic vision for Indiana:
First, reduction of property taxes so that home ownership remains affordable and farmers can keep their land.
Second, a restructuring of business taxes to support economic development for the global economy and the information age of the 21st century.
Third, funding for our K-through-12 public schools that is sufficient for excellence and that allows schools to accomplish the state academic standards and school accountability reforms.
Fourth, funding for a high-quality public higher education system that keeps our colleges and universities accessible and affordable for the state's high school graduates and that supports the interconnection of research with advanced technologies and economic development.
Fifth, creation of a tax structure that provides the revenues necessary to fund the investments required to achieve the Alliance's vision for Indiana's future.
Noting his 30 plus-year career as an Indiana businessman and community leader, Barnette stated, "I know from experience that without good schools and colleges to prepare the work force, I can't succeed. I know that I need the research and technology-transfer capabilities of the universities. And our educators know that a thriving business community is necessary to motivate students, give them job opportunities after they graduate and assure prosperous families and communities. And we all understand that sensible tax structure is necessary to achieve all of that.
"I've heard too many times, 'If I can't get those conditions in Indiana, I may take my business elsewhere.' Too many of our talented graduates say the same thing. They will leave the state without the opportunity of a good job.
"We all know about the state's fiscal problems. There is a revenue shortage that will put Indiana into a budget deficit next year if we don't address it now. It has to be fixed. But that's not enough," said Barnette. "If we balance the budget and do nothing else, we will still be exactly what we are now a state with an outdated tax structure, unfunded education reforms, rising college costs and only a vague plan for the future."
Reflecting the Alliance's commitment to work together, Barnette stated, "This is the time for some bold strategic decisions. We are ready. The people are ready. This Alliance wants to help our leaders harness this energy, so they can meet the challenges of Indiana's future."
Chris LaMothe, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the state's largest business organization, underscores the need not only for business tax restructuring, but also for a comprehensive education-economic development plan for Indiana's future.
LaMothe stated, "Throughout history, the measure of successful societies have often been measured by educational attainment and economic vitality. Hoosier citizens, and potential citizens, today and tomorrow will look at states and regions based on the ability to build careers, families and retirements. They will look where education is valued and delivers excellence. They will look where there is a rich choice of high wage jobs. And, they will look where they can raise a family and build careers.
"Indiana's current crisis creates an opportunity for vision, courage and results. In order for Indiana to be the successful Indiana all citizens in this state want and deserve, it is time for our elected leaders to make the decisions necessary for Indiana to be successful. These require moving Indiana to a tax structure that encourages and enables the creation of jobs, investment in plant, equipment and research and removes barriers to growth and growth opportunities in a 21st century economy.
"It also requires a commitment to K-12 and higher education as a means to an educated populace and a productive work force capable of global competition.
"Our K-12 education system has been called to, and will be held to, higher standards, annual testing and accountability. These must be funded. Additionally, the training necessary for our teachers and administrators to reach these new expectations must be implemented in order for Indiana to be able to meet expectations of Hoosier citizens. These issues must be met head-on by our elected leadership and position Indiana for success in the future. The time to act is now, otherwise Indiana will continue to fall behind."
LaMothe added, "Indiana must define what its priorities are and how we must invest in those priorities. Without a highly educated citizenry, and without the high-skill jobs in which to build successful careers and families, Indiana will struggle and ultimately fail. We all expect and want more of the Indiana we all call home."
Alliance partners representing real estate and agricultural interests noted the impact of the Indiana Supreme Court decision regarding property assessments and the potential for dramatic residential property tax increases.
Don Villwock, president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, stated: "Indiana's farming community has struggled for decades under an unfair tax burden. The Supreme Court property reassessment mandate can be a catalyst for changes in Indiana's property tax system. A lesser reliance on property taxes can help sustain hundreds of farms and dozens of small communities throughout Indiana. Agriculture will continue to contribute substantially to the state's economy if property taxes for farmers are lowered.
Villwock further stated, "However, we also recognize that farming communities need good public schools and that higher education institutions provide significant agricultural research. Indiana needs a tax structure that supports education without forcing many family farmers to discontinue their families' heritage."
Karl Berron, vice president of the Indiana Association of Realtors, stated, "The Indiana Supreme Court mandate for a new property assessment system will shift a substantial tax burden to residential homeowners, threatening the Indiana housing market. Affordable housing is one of Indiana's competitive advantages with other states. We are a national leader in home ownership, with a home ownership rate of 75 percent. In a struggling economy where the housing market is one of the few bright spots, large increases in residential property taxes are not acceptable."
Berron continues, "We also have concerns regarding the negative impact of property taxes on farms and businesses. The property tax is not a good tax for homeowners, farmers or businesses. Property taxes need to be cut and we need to lessen our reliance on property taxes."
Berron stated, "We realize that education, economic development issues and state budget issues are also critical. All of us have an obligation to do more than just criticize current officeholders. Even though members of this Alliance may disagree on specific issues, the effort to find common ground is essential to solving all of these critical issues."
The Indiana Metropolitan Mayors Alliance, representing Indiana's 20 largest cities, also joined the Alliance. Mayor Dave Heath of Lafayette, speaking for Mayors Alliance chairperson Russell Lloyd Jr. of Evansville, stated, "Because Indiana's cities face all three challenges economic development, quality education and rising property taxes we are especially insistent that elected leaders address these critical issues now. Our bipartisan group of mayors of Indiana's 20 largest cities in which a majority of Indiana's citizens live are unanimous in support of the goals of the Alliance for Indiana's future. As mayors, we are on the front lines of representing the citizens of Indiana. The people we represent tell us that the time for action is now. The fiscal condition of the state, funding for schools and universities, the impending increases in property taxes for homeowners and Indiana's outdated tax structure must be resolved now.
The Alliance also includes Indiana's two major public universities. Purdue University President Martin Jischke stated, "This new alliance is an effort to support our state leaders in this tremendous effort and responsibility. We pledge our help, and our sense of urgency. We believe high quality education is the key to success for Indiana.
"Investments in education, K-12 and higher education together, can provide solutions and must be protected," said Jischke. "Taxpayer dollars that underwrite schools, colleges and universities are investments that are low-risk and high return a rare combination. Investments in education pay off big time in the lives of people, communities and states.
"We in Indiana education want to foster economic development, especially in the high technology sector," Jischke stated. "For example, using 21st Century Research and Technology funds, Purdue, Indiana University, IUPUI and Notre Dame have teamed together with Zimmer Inc. of Warsaw. Our joint research is de-eloping a new generation of minimally invasive orthopedic implants that will transform the way more than 300,000 hip fractures are treated each year in the U.S. alone. Our research is creating new implant technologies for repair and strengthening the human spine. All of this will result in new, high paying jobs not only at Zimmer, but also at its Indiana suppliers jobs that will be filled by people educated in Indiana schools and universities.
"With a well educated population, communities and this state will collect more taxes, spend less on social services and reap the huge benefits of creativity and entrepreneurship that translate into prosperity," said Jischke. "This year 21st century funds are frozen. Opportunities are being frozen as well. Indiana is well positioned to take advantage of the tremendous advances that will flourish in this new century. By forming strategic partnerships among government, business, industry and education, Indiana can become a world leader."
Indiana University President Myles Brand stated, "Indiana University is pleased to be part of this unprecedented coalition working toward Indiana's economic well-being. We are here because we are all aware that our state faces a serious fiscal challenge. Members of our General Assembly must come together to provide some solutions to this difficult problem. The problem we face really has two parts. First, we must restructure taxes in a way that positions Indiana well for the 21st century. We must also address deficit issues.
"And second, we must develop a vision for Indiana," Brand added. "It's been said "Where there is no vision, the people perish.' If we lack vision, the economy will not thrive, and that will have significant human costs.
"To avoid those costs,." said Brand, "we must grow new industries 21st century industries. A higher proportion of the Indiana's economy depends on basic manufacturing than that of any other state. During the final quarter of the 20th century, this strategy served us well. But times have changed, and we must change also. The 21st century is the age of the mind, not the back, and Indiana's economic planning must reflect this reality.
"University research is an engine that can drive the new economy. Projects like IU's Indiana Genomics Initiative and the Pervasive Technology labs not only push forward the frontiers of knowledge, but also have great tech-transfer potential. And providing a technologically sophisticated work force, of the sort produced by IU's new School of Informatics, will be a magnet that draws new businesses to Indiana.
"The future of Indiana and its research universities are networked together," Brand stated. "Working in collaboration, I have every confidence that we can grow a Hoosier culture of entrepreneurship. Indiana University is ready and able to do its part in that effort."
The Indiana State Teachers Association, which represents more than 45,000 school employees throughout Indiana, stressed the importance of the Alliance's support for public education. ISTA President Judy Briganti, a fourth-grade teacher from Elkhart, stated, "Public education faces two deficits. First, the current revenue stream will not support existing programs and services. The progress that public education is making cannot be continued if hundreds of teachers are laid off, thousands of students are in larger classes and vital instructional programs are reduced or eliminated.
"The second deficit faced by our public schools is an opportunity deficit. In 1999, the Indiana General Assembly enacted two education reform laws. These laws mandated higher academic standards and greater school accountability. Almost every Republican and Democrat in the Indiana General Assembly voted for these laws. Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed and President Bush signed federal education legislation that mandates annual testing and requires academic improvement from all students, including our state's most disadvantaged students."
Briganti continued, "These state and federal standards and accountability reforms are welcomed by educators because we want our students, our schools and our state to be successful in the future. However, these reforms will require that students be given more and better opportunities to learn. All children must have sufficient early childhood education programs. All children must learn to understand English. All children must learn to read fluently. All children must be taught to think and to write and to comprehend complex reading assignments. All children must learn to solve advanced math problems and to implement complex scientific formulae. All children need to be taught by highly qualified teachers.
"All of these higher standards and all of this tougher accountability that the state and federal governments have mandated must be accomplished even by our most disadvantaged students in our most disadvantaged schools. President Bush has stated that 'No child should be left behind.' We could not agree more."
Steve Ferguson, who serves as executive vice president of the Cook Group, chairperson of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and board member of the Indiana Health Industry Forum, as well as the Indiana Research & Development Coalition, stated the Alliance's hopes for Indiana's future, "Every one of us loves the state of Indiana. We are proud to be Hoosiers. Whether we were born here or came from somewhere else, we have chosen to live and work and do business here, because it's the place we want to be," Ferguson said.
"There are other states that have mountains and seashores and snow-free winters. We believe the people and the values of Indiana are worth more than those things. This is where we want our children and grandchildren to grow up, go to school, and raise their families.
If it were 1900 and we were looking forward to 2000, could we have imagined the changes we would see in technology, medicine, transportation, communication and society in the next 100 years? As we stand here today we are going to see more changes in the next 20 years than we have seen in the last 100. We must prepare our state, children, and our economy for the future. The lifespan of a new medical device is six months to two years before the competition or a new therapy replaces your device. The new economy is a global competition and the future is one of knowledge and education. Those without the knowledge skills will be left behind. States without an educated work force, the brightest minds and the best educational system K-research will be left behind in the most competitive world that has ever existed.
"But we believe it's time now to take charge of our destiny. We cannot afford to follow the leads of other states. We have allowed ourselves to fall behind, but it's not too late if we are willing to work together.
"You have heard from some accomplished people this morning. They have told you that they want action. the kind of action that can happen only in this building where our governmental leaders do their work. I think it's important to note that you heard business people speaking on behalf of education; you heard educators arguing for a productive business climate. That is significant. It means that they understand the future we are all in this together. It is about more than self-interest. It's about doing what's best for all of us."
Ferguson asked, "What do we want? We want a great education system. K-12 and post-secondary. Business needs that. The people need that. In the short term, this means that cutting the education budget is unacceptable. In the longer term, it means we have to find the resources to fund our schools and colleges and universities better than we have been doing. We want a tax structure that makes home ownership affordable and that supports a growing business sector. We don't have it now. Our tax system is antiquated, and it taxes the wrong things. It suppresses existing businesses; it discourages entrepreneurship; and it makes it difficult to bring firms in from other states and other countries. Getting the job done now for Indiana's future is our mission today."
Sources: David W. Goodrich, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, (317) 638-2101
Dan Clark, Indiana State Teachers Association, (317) 263-3362, (800) 382-4037