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Berne incumbent faces Decatur labor leader in race for state House seat

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House District 79
Term: 2 years
Salary: $22,616.46 per year
Per diem: $152
Duties: Passes state laws and resolutions as one of the two chambers of the Indiana General Assembly. The biennial state budget also must originate in the House.

Matt Lehman (incumbent)
Party: Republican
Age: 49
Occupation: Insurance
Education: Associate degree in aviation technology from Vincennes University
Family: Married, with three daughters

Mike Snyder
Party: Democratic
Age: 55
Occupation: President, United Steel Workers Local 15173 (representing Bunge North American in Decatur)
Education: Bachelor's degree in labor studies from IPFW
Family: Married, with two sons

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 5:39 am

In the 79th Indiana House District, incumbent Republican Matt Lehman, who owns an insurance agency in Berne, faces Mike Snyder, a labor leader from Decatur.

The 79th District includes all of Adams County, eastern Wells County and southeastern Allen County.

Lehman, 49, who was first elected to the state House in 2008, says he's proud of the work the General Assembly has done since then to maintain the state's “fiscal stability,” even though that entailed adapting to some deep cuts. “In tough times, you have to make some tough decisions,” he said. Before he was elected to the House, he had been an Adams County Council member.

Snyder, 55, is president of the United Steel Workers Local 15173 at Bunge North American in Decatur. He has been involved in political campaigns and personally lobbying elected officials for decades, but this is his first run for office. What moved him to file for the race, more than anything else, was right-to-work legislation enacted this year.

“I really disliked the way the House of Representatives handled that,” he said.

Snyder also criticized the state's “shift of money away from public schools” – most notably, through publicly funded vouchers paid to some families who enroll their children in private or religious schools.

Lehman said two big issues are likely to dominate the Legislature in its 2013 long session, which legislators must agree on a two-year budget.

First is the Affordable Care Act, which compels the state to tackle some big questions, such as whether it runs its own exchange through which the uninsured can buy health insurance and whether it extends Medicaid coverage to more people.

The second major issue likely to occupy legislators is the budget, he said. The key decisions will involve whether to use newly emerging surpluses to restore cuts that have been made since the start of the recession or to return that money to taxpayers.

On that point, Snyder agrees. He sees the budget as being an even more difficult problem, particularly because of the last year's surprises, namely $320 million in corporate tax collections that went unnoticed and $206 million not paid to counties.

“We don't really know where we're at,” he said, referring to the $320 million in corporate tax collections that adding that as the jolt of funds from the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road dwindles, the state must decide where road funds will come from.

“Compromise is the ability to find a solution where everybody wins but nobody's happy,” Lehman said.