ELKHART — Candidates in the Indiana Senate race for district 12 cite jobs and education as a couple of the state’s biggest issues, but the two hopefuls have opposing views on how the state’s problems should be addressed over the next four years.
Republican Carlin Yoder is seeking a second term in office. He is being challenged by Democrat Jim Ball. Both candidates will be on the ballot on Nov. 6 for district 12, which covers most of Elkhart County and a small part of northeast Kosciusko County.
RIGHT TO WORK
One of the major issues that divides the two candidates is Indiana’s right to work legislation passed in February. Signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels, the rule makes union fees optional for workers in union occupations. Yoder was the bill’s lead sponsor, and he has been satisfied with its outcome.
“We’ve seen businesses come into the state directly because of right to work,” Yoder said. “Jobs have been created. Good paying jobs have been created. I think we’re up to 4,000 or 5,000 jobs that have in some way come into the state of Indiana because of right to work since March.”
One of the reasons Ball decided join the race for Indiana Senate was his opposition to the right to work provision. Ball, a union officer and an engineer for Norfolk Southern, would like to see the legislation repealed.
“Right to work really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Ball said. “Right to work sounds good. Everybody wants the right to work, but that’s not what it really is. I don’t think enough people have an understanding of what right to work is. It would kind of be like the state going into a VFW or a Knights of Columbus or any organization and say you don’t have to pay dues anymore, but you can still be a member of this club.”
Ball noted that unions have expenses just like any organization.
“Eventually if enough people opt out, they go belly up,” he explained. “They can’t keep the lights on. They can’t keep the rent up, so I really don’t think it was needed. I don’t think there was enough public debate on it.”
Yoder said he recognizes that the right to work legislation was not popular among everyone.
“The main people who weren’t happy about it were the union heads, and I would say to the union workers, all those predictions that your union heads told you did not come true,” Yoder said. “The sky did not fall on your head. In fact, you have freedom now that you didn’t have. Your wages have not gone down at all, and in fact, if the unions are going to do what they say they’re going to do for you, you’re probably going to stay in, and I encourage you to stay in if that’s the case.”
Yoder described the legislation as “another tool for Indiana to attract businesses.”
“Whether they come to Elkhart County or whether they come to Indianapolis or Evansville or wherever, they end up coming,” Yoder said. “At least they’re looking at Indiana again. My hope is that Elkhart County long term will benefit from this because we are an area where transportation seems to come together here. With Chicago and Detroit and toll road so close, I think long term we’re going to see some benefits there.”
Ball does not believe right to work is the main draw for employers who are considering moving to Indiana.
“I think if the infrastructure is good and the public schools are good, that’s why business comes to a certain location,” Ball said. “If there are poor public schools and roads, and they can’t move their products from A to B, they’re not going to come.”
Yoder said Indiana has made a lot of progress over the past four years, but there are a few areas that need more work. One of those areas is jobs, he said. Yoder said legislators should focus on relaxing burdensome regulations, allowing businesses to feel comfortable setting up shop in Indiana.
“We need to let businesses breathe, and when they can breathe, they bring jobs with them,” Yoder said. “We’ve over-regulated nationally, and I think Indiana can stand out by stepping away from the national aspect of things and give some flexibility to businesses.”
Yoder and Ball both believe that education in Elkhart County and across the state needs to be improved. Yoder said the spotlight, especially locally, needs to shine on trades and job training.
“I think we’re slowly learning what some of us probably knew a long time ago, which is four-year colleges are not for everybody,” Yoder said. “The debt load that some of these students are taking on is frightening frankly when you walk out of a four-year college, and some students aren’t cut out for that. We have to come up with a better way to help these students get into the job market.”
Ball worries how public schools will be affected down the road because of the millions of dollars that the state cuts from their budgets year after year.
“I would like to see more local control and more involvement with parents and teachers having more control over the education system instead of being based out of Indianapolis,” Ball said. “I think each local community should have their own options on how they want to educate their children.”
Ball praised the efforts of the Horizon Education Alliance, a group that launched in January that hopes to improve education in Elkhart County by partnering schools with businesses and community organizations.
“We need to reinvest,” Ball said. “The children are our future, and we need to treat them that way. We don’t need to look at today. We need to look four generations ahead and plan. Don’t react to things. We need to be progressive rather than to reacting to everything.”