Daniels' "Major Moves" is questioned
According to House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer, Gov. Mitch Daniels and Republicans in the state Senate and House of Representatives are ignoring the minority party's concerns about the proposed "Major Moves" initiative that includes the I-69 project and its privatization.
"Indiana House Democrats went into this session prepared to act on those issues that the people of Indiana identified as important," Bauer said last week.
"Instead, we have seen the House majority advance an agenda designed to sell off the state's assets and deny the public a chance to have their voices heard in state government. If we continue on this course, this will be the worst legislative session in recent history," Bauer added.
While he did not make any specific allegations or offer any concrete alternatives to the Republican-backed plan, Bauer did state other concerns with the "Major Moves" bill, including the state's financial responsibility if the investors default, and whether workers on the projects financed through "Major Moves" will receive competitive wages and benefits. Bauer noted that legislative efforts to restrict the use of eminent domain to take private property exempt the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) from those restrictions, which means the state could use eminent domain to gain control of private land, he claims.
"Is this the first step in selling off many of our state's assets, such as our parks and hospitals and those programs that provide health care and other critical services for the people of this state?" Bauer asked.
"The best way to get the answers to these questions would have been to conduct statewide public hearings on 'Major Moves,' but the Republican majority did not agree with that effort to inform citizens," he said. "They demonstrated a similar lack of interest in giving the people a chance to decide in a public referendum once and for all if Indiana belongs in the Eastern or Central Time Zone."
House members did pass a plan to give some property tax relief, but provided no way to pay for it.
"The property tax relief contained in House Bill 1001 will do little to offset the double-digit property tax increases that home and business owners will see from the 2005-'06 biennial state budget approved by last year's Legislature, a budget that House Democrats opposed," Bauer said. "I wish we had spent more time on property tax relief last year, because it would have helped property owners this year.
"We have half the 2006 session left, and House Democrats remain committed to fighting for those issues that benefit the people of Indiana, such as health care and education," he concluded.