With the passage and signing of last week's "clarification" language to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the massive outcry to the law itself has subsided a great deal in Indiana. However there is no doubt that the statewide and national outcry has left a void in the wallet of Indiana's economy. John Ketzenberger, Executive Director of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, talked to NUVO about the extent of the damage.
NUVO: How much do you think we lost?
JOHN KETZENBERGER: It'll be hard to figure it out for a while, because we'll have to see what shows up in the revenue reports. The chances of that showing up in a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-report, that's going to be kind of small. We won't know for sure — and I will say that the agreement that leadership reached with business probably staved off the real hit. I think they've satisfied business. We've heard a resounding silence in the nearly 24 hours since. The hit that we've taken, while very real for some people, is going to be minimized by the fact that they finally got the worst of it out of the way. Honestly, though, I think we're talking millions of dollars — we've lost that convention with the Disciples of Christ, we know that we lost the AFSCME convention, and I'm sure that there's some other collateral damage across the state. We're talking millions, probably on the order of $10 to 20 million.
NUVO: And we don't know the cost of a business that was perhaps even looking at several locations, or had thoughts of expansion and simply crossed Indiana off their list.
KETZENBERGER: That's right, we'll never be able to identify that. The Angie's List situation? That's kind of hard to quantify. There's a dollar value associated with that, but there's also a collateral situation — the effect on the near East Side would've been very positive, and could've spurred a lot more development. If [the Angie's List expansion] really ends up not happening, there'll be a dollar cost — whatever investment Angie's List would've made — the amount of jobs they would've added AND all the lost potential; improvements from the split east to where El Sol de Tala used to be. That's quite a stretch. I think that had a real potential for a catalyzing factor. That's the only reason why I thought the deal was any good ... restaurant, retail, that's an area where you could even have some industrial [business] come back in. That's an unquantifiable cost, but it's an opportunity lost. That's something that could set back that area years, literally years.