Those of us with a conservative bent carried a vague image in the back of our minds of how sweet life might be with Republicans in power and able to do all they campaigned about doing.
Common sense would mean something, trains and buses would run on time, divorce and child abuse would decline, prosperity would surround us, freedom would grow and simple justice would reign.
I would add that the seas would begin to recede and earth would begin to heal, but that daydream belonged to someone else.
Then, after 2012, the GOP actually started holding majorities of two-thirds or more in both General Assembly chambers in Indiana along with the governor’s office. Guess what? All our problems have not been solved by investing our hopes in one political party.
There is a reason California is regarded by many as the worst run state in the union. Yes, Californians have a state government run by progressive Democrats. Other states suffer that. But the more troubling fact is that Californians have a state government run, in effect, only by progressive Democrats. As we see there, when progressive Democrats hold a majority, they plan incredibly expensive bullet trains but when progressive Democrats have a supermajority, they cancel bullet trains and stand by while contractors keep getting paid to finish building the tracks.
One-party rule breeds corruption, whether it’s GOP cronyism in Indianapolis, sweetheart deals with Democrats in Chicago or obvious bribery practiced by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party in Laos. People are the same all over.
The honey attracting Hoosier Republicans has often been the terrifying public-private partnership. We see this in economic development. It usually involves a private plan or hunch to be financed by public dollars. The rollout gets a lot of attention. The failure does not. Its main tool is tax-increment financing, which provides a way of ignoring property tax caps and avoiding transparency connected to other public expenditures. TIF too often will wind up funding salaries involved in municipal patronage rather than roads and sewers for developer projects.
Be aware: Now the Indiana General Assembly has engineered a new public-private effort involving state tourism. House Enrolled Act 1115 abolishes the Office of Tourism Development, replacing it with a quasi-private entity — the Indiana Destination Development Corp. It will pull in members of private sector to help steer the agency and the spending of public and private dollars to enhance tourism.
How open the agency will be and how much private versus public money will be spent remains to be seen.
But the most notable Republican-fostered public-private partnership has been charter schools, with a checkered record of results. Two virtual charter schools took about $40 million in public money that the state now wants back after enrollment records were found to be inaccurate.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick speaks freely now about how much state education policy is being dictated by the hunt for lucre.
“You’ve got a lot of money on the line” in education funding, McCormick said. “You’ve got a lot of lobbyists and a lot of people who are making a lot of money. I mean, it’s a big business.”
She is not running for re-election, and the General Assembly has, since the her election, made her office an appointed rather than elected post. It’s one way of keeping that important office under the control of the GOP governor.
McCormick has been criticized for traveling the state with (gasp) a Democrat, State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, who is said to be getting ready to seek his party’s nomination for governor. The appearances caused Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer to denounce McCormick, saying it “begs the question whether Jennifer McCormick is still a Republican.”
McCormick says she is just doing her job, which includes talking to Republicans, Democrats and anyone else about education In Indiana.
“I would argue in Indiana it’s kind of the Wild, Wild West of choice,” she said of schools supported by state vouchers. “In other states, there’s more parameters around it, there’s more quality controls around it.”
Heaven help us. That is not the one-party line.
David Penticuff is editor of the Chronicle-Tribune in Marion. Penticuff, a veteran Indiana editor who has written extensively on economic-development strategies, is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Send comments to [email protected].