By John L. Krauss
Congratulations to Indiana’s newly elected and re-elected leaders. They’ve chosen a good time to serve Indiana. While neighboring states’ elected officials wrestle with budget deficits, they face debates about how to make the most of fiscal stability and a budget surplus.
But preparing Indiana for a strong future is a complex process influenced by innumerable forces. The challenge lies in knowing which factors to consider and which questions to ask.
The Indiana University Public Policy Institute, a part of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, has tackled that same challenge. Recognizing that everything Hoosiers do or hope to do depends on the future of our state’s economy, the Public Policy Institute partnered with government, community and business leaders to conduct an 18-month study of key factors that will affect the economy.
We started by considering the problems : How do we increase per-capita income, create jobs and prepare Indiana’s workforce for those jobs?
Although in recent years we’ve suffered less than many of our Midwestern peers, we have seen Indiana’s per-capita personal income decline — from 92.7 percent of the national average in 1980, to 90.6 percent in 2000 and to 85.2 percent in 2010 — and we lost 207,000 jobs from 2000 to 2010.
Clearly, unless we make substantive changes, our fiscal strength is in peril.
To address this reality, the Public Policy Institute and our volunteer commissioners dug deep, reviewing data trends and current literature to identify best practices, consider innovative approaches being used in other states and discuss the best options for Indiana.
In early 2012, we released three reports under the banner “Policy Choices for Indiana’s Future.” These reports (available at www.policyinstitute.iu.edu/PolicyChoices/) outlined the important questions that elected leaders must address if the state is to strengthen its economic prospects, and offered overviews of the options facing the state.
We’re proud of those reports and of the guidance they offer to our leaders and citizens, but we’re even prouder of the conversations they sparked, which we think could serve as a model for future policy discussions.
After the reports were released, more than 100 people gathered in Indianapolis to discuss the findings. After the forum, elected officials, gubernatorial candidates and their staffs, and leaders from the corporate and nonprofit sectors also met with us. Then, most notably perhaps, as the state was preparing for the 2012 elections, Indiana’s gubernatorial candidates joined us for a public one-on-one conversations.
My point in describing these discussions is this: If Hoosiers are to navigate through the economic challenges
and emerge from the recession in a position to sustain our relative advantages; it will be informed conversations such as these — not polarized stand-offs — that will make the difference. The past year has shown me that Hoosiers want such conversations.
It’s a great time to lead Indiana. Our elected leaders get to work from a position of fiscal strength and growing opportunity. My challenge for them is to put the state’s prosperity ahead of political standoffs and engage fully in the kinds of discussions that will yield real results.