Mike Pence: Salesman in chief for Indiana
Governor points to improving economy, big government surplus
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Gov. Mike Pence asked members of Muncie Rotary Club this week to do something for him.
That was encourage a friend, family member or someone else to come to Indiana and start a business, create a job or help the economy.
Local community and business leaders, like retired industrialist Van Smith liked Pence's approach, given his years of supporting the governor politically and having a son who works for the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Pence, who proclaimed himself the "Salesman in Chief" for Hoosiers, never stops thinking about job one and that is creating jobs for Hoosiers.
While unemployment drops, and state government sits on a $2 billion surplus, Pence told the crowd there was much more to do. About a quarter million Hoosiers remain out of work. Another one in five children live in poverty. And there are as many as 400,000 people without heath care as Indiana is slow to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
"Indiana is the fiscal envy of the country," said the governor, after returning from a national governor's meeting.
That surplus drew a question from Ball State President Jo Ann Gora who wondered if the state would forego 2 percent reductions in higher education spending. That also takes lawmakers blessings and the governor pointed out how the Legislature had differing opinions on his initiatives to start a pilot pre-school program and end business personal property taxes.
The governor said the state also had a AAA bond rating and was meeting pension obligations by 82 percent, which again was better than most Midwest states.
And he said job growth continue to rise in 2013 and another 21,000 in the first months of 2014.
Before coming to Muncie Tuesday to preside over the announcement of a new Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Muncie, Pence stopped in Carmel where Stonegate Mortgage announced 400 new jobs to collect delinquent loans. And developers also are building a new apartment and retirement community in the fast growing suburb of Indianapolis.
Muncie has seen a boom in housing too, whether it is students apartments like the Grove on McGalliard Road or Village Promenade in the University Village or the renovation of the downtown Roberts Hotel into apartments for those of age or a new senior community called Muncie Senior Living at Tillotson Avenue and Memorial Drive.
However, new jobs, whether it is manufacturing, retail or institutional continue to tickle upward as Muncie's biggest private employer is Sallie Mae's call center while institutions like Ball State and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital are the other top employers outside of local government and schools.
Pence said Indiana still ranked 5th in private sector job growth and he insisted the Hoosier labor force was growing, despite recent reports.
Some of the governor's initiatives are aimed at reducing taxes on businesses, although the Legislature already reduced income and corporate taxes and eliminated inheritance taxes.
That latest business tax elimination, that could take $1 billion from schools and government is now becoming a reduction as lawmakers look for ways to replace lost revenue.
Pence believed the Hoosiers best days are ahead after visiting Apple Tree Child Development Center that is operated by the Muncie YMCA. Early childhood education was something that took the governor time to embrace, and he also encouraged the Rotary to tell lawmakers of the importance of pre school education.
That was not lost on Jud Fisher, president and CEO of Ball Brothers Foundation. That group has invested more than $1.3 million in recent years on youth and education.
Editor's Note: Rick Yencer will be running for office this year in Delaware County.