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COMMUNITY VOICE

Auburn lawmaker encouraged issues to pass session with bipartisan support

Friday, March 21, 2014 - 12:01 am

It is hard to believe I now have two legislative sessions under my belt. As a business owner, I supported the House Republican agenda that aimed to continue making Indiana an even more competitive business climate. In November, we outlined five key concepts of our agenda for the 2014 legislative session, and it feels great to say that we met our goals.

I have learned a great deal during my time serving on the House Roads and Transportation Committee, and we have worked hard to meet infrastructure needs facing our state as we uphold our reputation of the Crossroads of America.

This session, we addressed road funding by allocating up to $400 million to major highway lane projects across the state. Of that $400 million, $200 million will be used now to start working on major road projects. Once we see the fiscal forecast for 2015, we will determine if it is advantageous for us to put an additional $200 million toward our roads.

It has been proved that lower taxes attract business investment, so delivering on our promise to drive business investment to Indiana, we addressed the business personal property tax. This new legislation gives local units, like counties, cities and towns, the option to decide whether to exempt new investments on business equipment in a way they see fit. The state also decided to help attract business by lowering the corporate income tax and the financial institutions rate.

With one-third of our state’s workforce lacking the most basic skills needed to meet the demands of today’s workforce, we continued our focus on bridging the skills gap this session. We passed legislation that provides grants to school corporations that partner with businesses for internships in high wage, high demand jobs.

Another goal of our agenda was to improve education opportunities for low-income students. My son and daughter are now bright, talented teenagers — traits they no doubt inherited from their mother — and I remember many years ago preschool playing an important role in the foundation of their education. I want that opportunity to be available to all Hoosier families.

We passed legislation that creates a pilot program for low-income students, where a family of four at 127 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately. $30,000) or lower, would be eligible to attend preschool. With this additional help, it is my hope that these students can start off their education early and on the right foot, giving them the best future possible.

It was encouraging to see so many issues important to Hoosier families pass with bipartisan support, and after another great session I look forward to heading back to Auburn to spend time with my family and getting back to work in the district. Please continue to contact my office this summer with questions or ideas of how we can continue to build a stronger Indiana.

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, represents all of DeKalb County and portions of Steuben and Allen counties.