Editor’s note: Today we profile the candidates for the District 48 seat in the Indiana House, Republican Tim Neese, the five-term incumbent, and Democrat Dan Morrison. District 48, redrawn per the 2010 U.S. Census, encompasses northern Elkhart and northwestern Elkhart County, covering Cleveland, Osolo and Washington townships and the northern part of Concord Township.
Look here for a story on Morrison.
ELKHART — Tim Neese touts his independence.
He’s the right candidate for the District 48 seat in the Indiana House, he says, because he’ll listen to a variety of viewpoints, and won’t be swayed from doing what he thinks is right.
“...I haven’t been afraid to vote my conscience, to listen to individuals that are both for and against an issue,” he said.
He’s Republican, but he’s not afraid to go against the GOP leadership if he thinks that’s the way to go. He voted against a 2010 law, ultimately approved with broad GOP support, that created the state’s educational voucher program, for instance. He’s also voted against varied proposals to create charter schools, also generally favored by Republicans.
“It’s easy for a politician to say they’ll be independent,” he said. “It’s not always so easy to actually do it.”
The voucher program he worried, permitting use of public funds at private schools, including religious institutions, would cloud the separation of church and state. He fears funding charter schools diminishes available dollars for public schools.
More broadly, the most immediate concerns should be the economy, jobs, education and crafting a new state budget.
Neese, 57, started his stint in the District 48 seat in 2003. Before that, the Elkhart man was elected to four terms on the Elkhart City Council, serving from 1988 to 2002.
The state legislative seat is a part-time position and Neese’s day job is director of the Solid Waste Management District of Elkhart County, a post he’s held since 1983. The SWMD is a quasi-governmental body tasked with promoting recycling and proper management of solid waste.
Here’s Neese’s take on some of the issues.
Ÿ Jobs/economy: The state already aggressively pursues business recruitment and encourages expansion of existing firms to spur the economy and job growth. The efforts need to be ongoing.
State lawmakers recently lowered the corporate income tax rate from 8.3 percent to 6.5 percent, he said, and lawmakers are mulling reducing that even more, something he would support. “If it’s good for business in Elkhart County, I’m going to support it,” he said.
Ÿ Budget: Crafting Indiana’s budget for 2013 and 2014 will be a major focus in the upcoming session early next year. The key in efforts will be to keep spending in check.
“It’s important that that that be a balanced budget with no tax increases and that it be a true and genuine balanced budget,” he said. There should be no borrowing from other funds or transfers.
The state will start with a surplus of perhaps $2 billion and some agencies might be able to actually see increases in their particular budgets, including Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. Education, too, could be a candidate for increased funding.
Ÿ Education: The state “can never fund education enough,” he thinks.
More specifically, he favors legislation making it easier for high-achieving high school students to take college-level courses, with credit, making them even more prepared on graduation.
Trained teachers are necessary to provide the relevant instruction, and the legislation, which could emerge this coming session, would aid in the process, aid in recruiting them. The proposal would also potentially aid those seeking training who have already left high school.
Ÿ Right to work: Neese co-authored legislation earlier this year making Indiana a right-to-work state, prohibiting unions from requiring dues of members. He said it’s paying off, with four companies per month, on average, deciding to locate here, in part because of the new law, which took effect last March.
He can’t say that the companies would not have come if Indiana didn’t have right-to-work legislation, but “clearly the advantages supercede the disadvantages.”
Labor groups had loudly opposed the right-to-work legislation.
Ÿ Social issues: Social issues should receive “virtually no time” in the coming legislative session.
Proposals to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman have come up in the past, and he’s come down in favor of such measures, still does. But there are more pressing concerns, notably crafting the 2013-2014 budgets.
“I think we have other issues that supercede social issues at this point,” he said.
Allowing teaching of creationism in public schools has also come up, but Neese isn’t eager about that notion. “I don’t feel that creationism is something that the legislature should be dictating to schools to teach,” he said.