By Sarah Ramon
Democratic leaders had nothing positive to say about Gov. Mike Pence’s State of the State address Tuesday night.
“I wanted to look for some things to say nice about the governor’s speech and look for some areas of agreement and commonality. And I regret that I can’t find anything. It was story-telling that was veining cynicism,” said House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath
, Michigan City.
Pence’s speech addressed his priorities for the upcoming year: jobs, the economy, schools, roads and confronting the drug war in Indiana. In addition, Pence said he would not support any bill that diminishes religious freedom. However, Pelath believed more should have been said about the controversial topic.
“We saw a complete lack of leadership on the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] issue,” he said. “The chief executive that causes this conflagration in the first place completely washed his hands of the entire issue, punted it to the legislature and cloaked it in some hard-to-understand principles in an effort to simply have the whole matter go away.”
Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane
, Anderson, agrees with the House Democratic Leader and critiqued Pence’s statement, or lack thereof, surrounding civil rights.
“[Pence’s speech] sent a message to me that he would be perfectly happy doing absolutely nothing in terms of the civil rights act this year. Now Hoosiers, I think, have clearly said they want us to act,” Lanane said. “But yet here we have a governor who’s not sure that it’s even necessary.”
“Here’s what I walked away with,” Lanane said. “I think this is a governor who is very proud of RFRA. He’s proud of what happened last year and thinks it’s absolutely not necessary for us to do anything to restore our reputation as a state.”
Throughout his speech, Pence mentioned many successes of 2015 such as improvements in education and the economy. One triumph included the launch of the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0
, which reformed Medicaid.
However, Lanane believes Pence is taking credit for the work of Congress and President Obama and claims that “the governor can spin [HIP 2.0] any way he wants to but it is nothing more than the carry out of the Affordable Care Act in the state of Indiana.”
Additionally, Pelath accused the governor of retracting his support of HIP 2.0 in the country’s capital.
“[Pence] talked about HIP and its successes and that’s something Sen. Lanane and I both supported, but at the same time, he’s out in Washington and out on the dinner circuit talking about repealing the very law that allows HIP to exist in the first place,” he said.
Overall, Pelath and Lanane believed Pence’s State of the State speech could have addressed more critical issues with detailed plans to correct them.
“We need strong executive leadership and a clear direction and we didn’t get that here this evening,” Pelath said.
“We certainly could have done better tonight than what we heard in that speech.”