By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — All three candidates for governor met Tuesday to discuss issues facing Indiana, including expanding pre-K, improving the state’s infrastructure and the effect of civic leadership.
The Indiana University Public Policy Institute hosted the gubernatorial forum after gathering data about what Hoosiers want from the next governor.
Former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard talks with Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg at Tuesday’s forum. Photo by Adrianna Pitrelli, TheStatehouseFile.com
The data, complied in the “Thriving Communities, Thriving State” report, examines important issues in midsized, urban and rural areas and considered policy, progress and priority by using an approach based on location.
Libertarian Rex Bell, former Speaker of the House Democrat John Gregg and Lt. Gov. Republican Eric Holcomb appeared on stage separately and discussed the issues with former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who moderated the forum.
Gregg supports a universal pre-K program, which he said would better the lives of children and become important for children to successfully complete their mandatory K-12 education.
“I think it is imperative that we do everything we can to take advantage of our education system in Indiana,” Gregg said.
Gregg said he would push hard for universal pre-K without raising taxes.
But possible higher taxation was the first issue Bell saw.
“I am opposed to government being involved in pre-K,” Bell said. “Once pre-K starts as voluntary, it will end up as mandatory.”
Bell stands on a strong platform of limited government and allowing the people to run their own lives.
Both Bell and Holcomb also emphasized the importance of matching business needs to what is being taught in schools as well as at colleges and universities.
“Having those communities integrated with one another is really pushing us ahead at the front,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb also supports universal pre-K education.
The “Thriving Communities, Thriving State” report showed a lot of concern about not only the road and bridge infrastructure of the Hoosier state, but also the lack of statewide broadband.
Although Holcomb is concerned about the lack of broadband, he said the larger issue is connectivity through transportation. The key to bettering infrastructure is not just improving the roads and bridges, but by also focusing on the airways and seaways due to the state’s Midwestern location, according to Holcomb.
“We have to do more. We have to build for the future,” Holcomb said. “We have to continue to maximize our location.”
However, under Gregg’s administration, he would focus on having statewide broadband, just as Tennessee and Kentucky already have throughout the state.
“We can make this happen without raising taxes,” Gregg said. “It’s a matter of priorities.”
Rather than raising taxes, Gregg plans to make widening broadband part of the infrastructure program. He would use 60 percent of the funds in the infrastructure program on roads and bridges. He would the other 40 percent on broadband and bettering the state’s water supply.
Bell, who does not believe in using taxpayer dollars in “unnecessary” ways, said the best way to better the infrastructure is to use all of the state’s gas-related taxes on bettering roads. Currently, some of those taxes go to the general fund.
“We use a lot of our road use taxes on other items,” Bell said. “If we would use 100 percent of our road use taxes on our roads, we would be pleasantly surprised with how much money we have to put onto them.”
Hoosiers who reside in rural, midsized and urban areas also are concerned with the direction civic leadership is taking at the local and state level, according to the report.
As governor, Gregg said he can provide strong leadership and can help focus on the economy rather than social issues.
“We are going to do everything we can to keep people in our communities,” said Gregg, who has lived in both big and small towns.
Bell would take a different approach by getting local businesses involved in government.
“As we draw more business into the state, I think we, as a society, need those people to set up,” Bell said.
Holcomb praised great leadership at all levels of government in Indiana from both sides of the aisle.
“I think the partnership is our most important thing in the state,” Holcomb said.
The three candidates will meet again and go head to head Sept. 27 for the first of three debates in the governor’s race.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.