To Steve Bonney, the plan for a new-terrain I-69 route is just one very expensive example of Indiana politicians’ outmoded economic thinking. “We’re on the wrong path. We need to talk about sustainable development, not just economic development,” said Bonney, who announced his candidacy for governor Monday.
He owns a Greene County farm bordering the proposed I-69 route. Running as a “progressive” independent with support of the state’s growing Green Party, Bonney needs to get 29,552 signatures from registered Indiana voters by June 30 in order to get on the ballot for November’s election.
Bonney is a 63-year-old ecologist, businessman and organic farmer from West Lafayette. He ran for United States Congress as a Democrat in 1982, losing to the Republican incumbent. A former college chemistry professor, Bonney came to Purdue University to pursue a doctorate degree in agriculture. He later left education to develop his own businesses. He’d like to see the state help others do the same. “Indiana should foster growth through helping start thousands of small businesses here,” he said. “This could come through tax reductions and tax credits.” All of the sprawling development exploding in Indiana has done little to help small businesses, he said.
“The pro growth approach is really about using public money to build infrastructure so land developers can make a lot of money,” he said. “It’s using public money for private gain.” Instead of more industrial parks, the state needs more culture, he said. “We keep losing population. We’re just not doing the things we need to do to keep people here and bring them here,” he said. “In terms of high-tech industries, culture plays a significant role in people’s decisions about where they want to live and work. Indiana is not competitive that way right now. If we’re going to attract jobs, we need to keep our young folks and college graduates.”
Bonney would like the state to provide more incentives for investment in local businesses. An income tax credit for people buying stock in Indiana companies would be a good start, he said. “It wouldn’t cost the state more than it would recover through growth in business,” he said. “This would give investors an incentive to invest at home.”
With 57,000 small farms remaining in Indiana, Bonney believes the state could cash in by building a food processing industry here. He’d like to see more farmers grow food for people — then have processing and distribution handled by businesses here. “This would add value to the products of our farms,” he said. It would also cut down on travel costs for delivering food to Indiana from as far away as Mexico. “Right now, our food travels an average of 1,200 miles from field to plate,” Bonney said. “With gas prices going up and transportation costs going up, food prices are going to go up, too.”
It would be less expensive and less wasteful for a centrally located state like Indiana to grow its own food. It could also charge less to transport food to East Coast states. “Half of our broccoli comes from Mexico,” he said. “That’s one thing we can grow here fine in the fall. We would just need facilities to package and store it.” I
ndiana should also encourage developing an industry to ease America’s dependence on fossil fuels. “Somebody is going to do that,” he said. “It’s going to be a long-term and stable industry.”
Ultimately, Bonney’s biggest goal is to involve people of Indiana in deciding their own futures. “Progressive politics is about increasing the quality of life,” he said. “I try to explain to people that the quality of life is our choice. We do have a choice if we decide to make it. We know if things are going in the right or wrong direction. And we should empower ourselves to do something about it.”