By Lois Mittino Gray
Eighth District Representative Larry Buschon began the Saturday morning Town Hall Meeting in New Harmony with an enthusiastic greeting noting the great turnout and packed seats. He presented a ten minute update on his view of goings-on in Washington DC, followed by presentations from local State Representatives Wendy McNamara and Thomas Washburne and State Senator Jim Tomes.
After their individual updates, the quartet fielded questions on many topics ranging from common core standards and minimum wage increases to business personal property tax and even a convention of states to affect change in government.
Buschon explained that right now DC is a very partisan environment and the House is trying to do business that will stabilize things. “We passed the Ryan budget agreement. It’s not what I would have wanted, but it ensures no shutdown this year,” he said. The budget is billons less than what was projected last year. Buschon said that with Crane Naval Center in his district he makes sure that training and support for troops is properly funded.
“Congress only votes on 40 percent of the national budget called discretionary money. The other 60 percent of the budget is on autopilot and that includes things like Medicaid and Medicare. We need to get a handle on that spending as it is going up and on the debt ceiling. I just don’t see us tackling the big stuff the people want us to this session in Washington.”
When asked about the minimum wage going from $7.25 to $10.10 for federal contractors, Representative Buschon expressed his disdain for President Obama circumventing Congress and mandating it. “This is a bad idea to raise it that much. Historically it does nothing to raise the poverty level and some may lose their jobs as employers look to cut costs. It’s purely political and skews the market in the wrong direction. Bad economics,” he said. “Just read what Bill Gates says about it.”
Wendy McNamara began by thanking the county for hard work keeping the roads clear and told New Harmony residents that all four legislators would do what they could to advertise the upcoming Bicentennial. She is proud to sponsor a bill being heard on Monday that requires landlords to disclose if meth was ever made or dumped in it when a house is sold. The Criminal Justice Institute was to begin keeping house lists in 2007 and did not do it, so the State Police will take that role over. If the house has been decontaminated, it will be removed from the list. “This is just one small step forward in dealing with this epidemic,” she noted.
She is also sponsoring a Career Training Education Bill that will create a career training diploma to be in the best interests of ‘kids and where they’re at’ and it has a lot of support. She garnered laughs when she told the group of over thirty people that she will need to go to school to learn more about the Football Concussion Bill she was asked to co-sponsor. ‘I’m a real football fan and I like a good hit that you can hear up in the stands as much as anyone.’
Representative Tom Washburne said his District 64 contains Cynthiana, Owensville, Poseyville, Griffin and the St. Wendel graveyard, but not the church.
“On the state level , we have a wide range of topics from historic barns to feral cats in trailer parks. At all times, we must ask is our decision prudent? Are we spending the people’s tax money as we should?”
Washburne is opposed to removing the business personal property tax. ‘The governor announced last fall that he wanted to do away with it and had no replacement money. Most of that tax goes back to local government and my counties get almost thirty percent of their budget from it. You just can’t yank money out from under them like that.’ He said losing the tax would have a disastrous effect on Posey County. He thinks that the bill came out of the House with not much change from present, but the Senate bill is pretty extreme. ‘It is a moving target that will have to be hammered out in the next three weeks.’
Senator Tomes announced that he just learned that Posey County is number one in the state with 2,418 savings accounts for college. He is also preparing a resolution to celebrate New Harmony’s Bicentennial and will invite some town reps to the ceremony.
Senator Tomes is concerned that citizens think that nothing is getting done when arguments abound over the Marriage Amendment. ‘The media makes it dominate, but actually it has been around for three to four years. We have considered 423 bills in the Senate and over 800 total, including the House, in this short session.’
Tomes said he tries to help every constituent who comes to him for help with an issue as it’s important to that person and needs to be answered or resolved. He was asked about Senate Bill 91 on doing away with Common Core standards. He said the people of Indiana want to develop their own standards. McNamara, who helped to write Indiana Social Studies standards in the 90’s, said EVSC has spent seven billion dollars to implement Common Core. “If we change that, I will be the loudest on the floor asking how are we going to reimburse them for textbooks and materials they ordered? You made it a mandate and they went with it, especially for K-3. I see the state not moving too far away from Common Core for this reason.”
Many in attendance were in favor of having a Convention of States to give power back to the people. They feel the federal government is overreaching its boundaries into states rights. “The best way to get rid of a bad bill is to strictly enforce it,” Buschon said wryly.
By Lois Mittino Gray