On January 11, I took part in a news conference announcing the formation of a coalition that is unique and unprecedented in Indiana. Representatives of business, education, agriculture, labor and local government have come together to form the Alliance for Indiana's Future.
The groups purpose is to encourage and support the states governmental leaders in their efforts to deal with Indianas immediate fiscal situation and with the long-term economic future of the state.
The Alliance was born out of a growing awareness that our state is at a true crisis point brought on by a combination of the current economic downturn and serious imbalances in our states tax structure. The Alliances motto, "Jobs, Education, Fair Taxes," sums up the three issues that we believe are essential parts of the solution. This sounds simple, but the Alliance also has advanced five key principles that are a realistic formula for the future prosperity of Indiana and its people.
The principles are:
Reduction of property taxes so that home ownership will remain affordable, and so farmers can keep their land.
Restructuring of business taxes to support economic development for the global economy and the information age of the 21st century.
Funding of K-12 public schools that is sufficient for excellence and that allows schools to accomplish state academic standards and accountability reforms.
Funding for a world-class public higher education system that keeps our colleges and universities accessible and affordable and that supports the interconnection of research with advanced technologies and economic development.
Creation of a tax structure that provides sufficient revenues to fund a new vision for Indianas future.
As I write this letter, 23 organizations have become members of the Alliance for Indianas Future, and the number is growing steadily. I believe the very fact that they have joined forces sends a powerful message to our states leaders. In addition to all seven state-supported colleges and universities, the alliance includes groups as diverse as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the state Farm Bureau, United Auto Workers Region 3 and the Metropolitan Mayors Alliance.
These organizations have widely different agendas. In some cases, they are at odds with one another on key public issues. Yet the urgency they feel about the states economic situation has brought them together.
Members of the Alliance are putting aside differences and parochial concerns in order to deal with a problem that is bigger than any of our individual interests. In essence, we are urging the General Assembly and the Governor to do the same.
We believe that dealing with the immediate state budget problems is essential, but we are equally concerned about the long-term economic health of the state. The education representatives in the Alliance are concerned about funding for the K-through-college system, but we know that without a healthy business climate the state will not be able to generate sufficient revenues to provide this support in the long term. The business interests want a tax structure that allows them to prosper, but they know that without an excellent educational system they will be forced to deal with an inferior work force and will miss out on the innovation and leadership that can only come from first-rate universities.
It is this recognition that we all depend on one another that gives the Alliance its growing strength and that causes its message to resonate for everyone in Indiana.
Since the founding of the Alliance less than a month ago, local chapters have begun to spring up, including the Greater Lafayette Alliance for Indianas Future. The message is sounding loud and clear that it is time to rise above politics and to think beyond special interests to develop a clear strategy for all of Indiana.
There is still time for the General Assembly to address these issues in the current session. Failure to take action now will result in lost time and lost opportunities. We need leadership and assertive action. The Alliance for Indianas Future is eager to help our states leaders find answers, and it is ready to support a program that addresses the five principles that have united the membership.