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Indiana gubernatorial hopefuls offer views on economy, education

The race for governor of Indiana features Republican Mike Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.
Posted on Oct. 31, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

The race for Indiana governor features conservative U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican, and former Indiana Speaker of the House John Gregg, a moderate Democrat.

Serving as upstart is Libertarian Rupert Boneham, the former reality television star offering a third way.

Here we offer their take on some key issues. Gregg and Boneham visited The Elkhart Truth to answer questions about their campaigns. Pence was unable to visit, but provided written responses to a series of questions.

Stylistically, Gregg has been characterized in several TV ads by his down-home demeanor, though the spots have grown increasingly critical of Pence as Election Day nears. Pence offers his Roadmap for Indiana, which zeroes in on jobs and education, touring the state in a bright red pickup.

Boneham, with his shaggy hair, beard and tie-dye garb, has traveled the state in a recreational vehicle, his giant likeness on the sides.

JOBS and THE ECONOMY

Gregg: Things like large-scale greenhouses and advanced manufacturing offer means for the state to create new jobs, bolstering the economy. Instead of importing them from Europe, the aluminum blades on wind turbines should be made here, for example. With ag developments like 40-acre greenhouses, “we could change the way we feed the world right here in Indiana.”

He favors targeted cuts in the corporate income tax to spur job growth — for firms locating their headquarters in Indiana, manufacturing companies creating skilled, high-paying jobs, research and development outfits needing new equipment. Big box stores, with lower-paying jobs, would not be eligible for the special break.

Infrastructure is key, because that’s how goods get to the market, and he favors a plan to create a new revolving fund meant to help pay for road and other infrastructure projects.

Gregg, now a lawyer, served in the Indiana House from 1986 to 2002. He’s from Sandborn.

Boneham: The government doesn’t create jobs. The government sets the framework for private companies to grow, thrive and create jobs.

Tax abatements to spur business development should stop, but if they’re going to continue, focus the efforts on smaller businesses. Try measures like low-interest loans instead.

He favors lowering both the corporate income tax rate, now 8 percent, and the personal income tax rate, now 3.4 percent, down to 3 percent. “We would be the least-taxed state in the Midwest,” he said.

Businesses could thus keep more of their profits, funds that could be cycled back into the operations to spur continued growth, while individuals would have more money to spend as they like. Sales tax revenue would grow, offsetting lost income tax funds, and the tax base would expand, Boneham thinks.

Over time, he’d like to cap property taxes for all classes of property, not just homeowner-occupied homes, at 1 percent of their assessed valuation, down from 2 percent for ag land and 3 percent for commercial property.

Boneham, who lives in Indianapolis, gained fame competing on the CBS reality show “Survivor.” He has long operated a nonprofit organization that helps troubled youth, Rupert’s Kids.

Pence:He calls for “lower taxes, fewer regulations and an increased ability for innovation through collaboration between our world-class universities and industry,” he said. That’ll keep existing Indiana businesses strong and aid in spurring new investment and jobs in Indiana.

He also calls for a cut in the personal income tax rate.

Pence, a lawyer serving in his sixth term in the U.S. House for Indiana’s 6th District, comes from Columbus.

EDUCATION

Boneham: He’d get rid of ISTEP+, the Indiana Department of Education standardized test for students, meant to gauge whether kids are learning at an appropriate level.

“You go back to grading through the performance, the progress through the year instead of the performance on one test,” he said.

He’d like to see school administration trimmed, with increased funds — including the “millions of dollars” saved by axing ISTEP+ — going to the classroom instead.

He spoke of the import of providing alternative paths for those who don’t thrive in the traditional school setting, who aren’t necessarily bound for four-year colleges. Maybe an “entrepreneurial path” should be created to encourage those so-inclined to start new businesses, for instance.

Pence: “To increase educational success in Indiana, we’ve called specifically for improved math and reading skills for students, expanded choice for parents and increased freedom for teachers,” he said. Appropriate funding levels for schools would have to be determined working with state lawmakers.

Gregg: He favors funding pre-kindergarten instruction in Indiana’s public schools, initially via a pilot program at perhaps 40 different schools. Kids from low-income families already have pre-kindergarten educational opportunities through the federal Head Start program and Gregg’s would be geared to the middle class.

He’d like to institutionalize funding of full-day kindergarten. It’s time to let school officials know “it’s always going to be there.”

He’d take pains to include teachers, school superintendents, school board members and parents in discussions at the state level on education matters, something he thinks has been lacking. “They need to have a voice,” said Gregg, former president of Vincennes University.

He complains a “war” is being waged on the public school system and hears many concerns about a state method to grade school systems. But he’d “wait for the dust to settle” before offering any other specific changes.

SOCIAL ISSUES

Pence: He said only that job creation would be “job one.”

Gregg: Social issues are too divisive, don’t lead to job creation, and there are other more pressing matters. “We need to focus on getting Hoosiers to work, growing our economy.”

That said, he expressed support for use of taxpayer funds for birth control, family planning and cancer screening programs at Planned Parenthood. He supports “traditional marriage.”

He maintains that social issues are a focus for Pence, a social conservative. Pence “obviously wakes up everyday wanting to deal with social issues.”

Boneham: He’s pro-choice on the abortion issue — every woman ought to have the right to control her own body.

He doesn’t like the idea of writing language into the Indiana Constitution meant specifically to deny gay people the right to marriage, as has been proposed in years past. “If two people want to be married I have no problem with it,” he said.

He comes down against moves to permit teaching of creationism in public schools. “If you want your children to be taught creationism instead of evolution you should find a parochial school because science is hard to deny,” he said.

RIGHT TO WORK

Gregg: He did not favor right-to-work legislation, approved in the last legislative session, prohibiting unions from requiring dues of members. “I don’t think it’s going to be bringing the type of jobs you can really raise a family on,” he said.

At the same time, he doesn’t see it being repealed any time soon since the Indiana legislature will likely remain in Republican hands and indicated no plans to pursue repeal. At some point, though, he thinks it’ll be repealed, as similar legislation was in the 1960s.

Boneham: He touts repealing right-to-work legislation and rewriting the law “so that it does not break the union,” noting that some unions are flexible in working with employers on rules governing union membership.

Indiana lawmakers approved right-to-work legislation in 1958, he noted, then repealed it in 1964. “It didn’t do what we thought it would do then and I don’t know that it’s going to do what we think now,” he said.

He further described the legislation, by influencing business-labor relations, as an intrusion of government into the private operation of business.

Pence: He favors right-to-work legislation.

“A Pence Administration would work to continue to ensure freedom in the workplace in order to make Indiana an even better place to do business and help to create new jobs for Hoosiers,” he said. The law has already persuaded some companies to locate or expand here, potentially bringing 7,500 new jobs and $1.6 billion in investment.

MISCELLANEOUS

Boneham: As a Libertarian, he said he provides an alternative to the status quo. “It’s time to make a change, and I am definitely a change,” he said.

Pence: As U.S. representative, he has worked to help constituents and fight runaway spending. “I will bring that same focus to the job as governor, putting Indiana’s fiscal health first and promoting transparency and innovation in government,” he said.

Gregg: When he was speaker of the Indiana House, every bill that went to the governor for signing had bipartisan support. He’s cut taxes as a lawmaker, the state’s inventory tax, and the state had a balanced budget during his stint as speaker.

He criticized Pence as being aligned with the conservative tea party movement. “He’s always been proud of that,” said Gregg.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack at Twitter: @timvandenack.


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