LET’S TRADE BAILOUTS AND BORROWING FOR SOME HOOSIER COMMON SENSE
Recent data shows national economic growth is slowing from a crawl to a halt.
Add that to the mountain of evidence that the federal government’s bailouts and borrowing can’t really create jobs. It’s time Washington learned some lessons from Indiana, where government creates conditions for economic growth without punishing taxpayers and the private sector.
Take two legislative successes that I was pleased to support: the Major Moves highway-construction fund and telecommunications reform. They’ve brought thousands of jobs to Indiana and spurred almost $6 billion in private investment statewide.
In 2006, Gov. Mitch Daniels proposed leasing the Indiana Toll Road and using the proceeds to create the Major Moves trust fund, which would fully finance a unique 10-year renovation of state highways. I became a Senate sponsor of the bill, because I saw the opportunity Indiana had to pay for needed projects that would improve the transportation of goods and people across our state.
In the years since, the lease – not sale – of the toll road has provided more than $1.6 billion in non-tax spending for highway projects, contributing to the creation of 185 new miles of road. Purdue University estimates the lease may be responsible for at least 32,000 construction and support jobs, with 93 percent of Major Moves contracts awarded to Hoosier companies.
The toll road lease agreement gave the state its $3.8 billion up front. It also let Indiana take the road back if the lessee didn’t live up to its commitments. And it all happened without a dime of tax money.
Major Moves benefits are evident in our area. A four-year project called “Fort to Port” connecting Fort Wayne to Toledo, Ohio, continues to progress, with the Indiana portion of a new U.S. 24 scheduled for completion sometime next year. It is just part of the Major Moves effort to build more than 200 road and bridge projects across the state.
Also in 2006, Indiana modernized its telecom laws so more Hoosiers could connect to the world of commerce and real-time information available online.
Before telecom reform, cable and phone companies had the potential to increase online access by entering the Internet market, but were strangled by outdated state regulations. I supported a bill that reduced regulations on phone companies if they offered Internet service and let cable companies get statewide franchises instead of undertaking time-consuming negotiations with individual municipalities.
As intended, telecom reform led to a Hoosier Internet boom. Ball State University found that within two years of the law’s passage, more than 100 Indiana communities gained access to high-speed Internet. Now, a widely publicized industry study ranks Indiana sixth among the 50 states for average Internet connection speed.
Since the law was enacted, the telecom industry has put more than $1.8 billion of private capital into its Indiana infrastructure. Such investment has created more than 2,500 industry jobs, from customer service to equipment installation.
What America needs isn’t a stimulus package from government coffers, but a climate where entrepreneurs are free to do what they do best: invest and build. Indiana gets this. Our state’s limited regulations and small-government policies recently earned us the distinction of third-freest state in the country.
Let’s hope Washington catches on to Hoosier common sense.
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