Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

March 29, 2012

Informed discussion today means better decisions tomorrow

Join the conversation on state’s challenges and opportunities

A key challenge for any leader is to strike the right balance between addressing immediate needs and those of the future. These days, that challenge is made more difficult by a political landscape that highlights partisan rhetoric and devalues long-term thinking and thoughtful debate.

Fortunately, some Indiana leaders are willing to buck this trend. For 18 months, more than 50 of those leaders — from the business, government, academic and nonprofit worlds, and from across the political spectrum — spent time studying issues integral to Indiana’s economic future. Working with the Indiana University Public Policy Institute (PPI), those leaders gathered research, discussed challenges and opportunities, and developed a list of some of the choices Indiana will face in the 21st century.

This month, those leaders and PPI unveiled the results of their work within three in-depth reports designed to spark conversation among elected officials and candidates for state office. As co-chairs of the PPI’s Board of Advisers, we hope the “Policy Choices for Indiana’s Future” reports will drive visionary planning.

Of course, such efforts could address a wide range of issues — from homeland security to arts and culture, and from pre-school education to eldercare. However, as we developed the Policy Choices initiative, we recognized a need to focus, so we turned our gaze to three areas we believe will have a strong impact on our state’s economy: education and workforce; energy and the environment; and tax policy.

As the commissions reviewing these areas began their work, they first considered our challenges. For example, battered by a difficult economy, in the first 10 years of the 21st century Hoosiers’ per capita income experienced its first decline in many decades, putting us behind Midwestern neighbors. In 2010, Indiana’s per capita personal income was only 85.2 percent of the national average, compared to 90.6 percent in 2000 and 92.7 percent in 1980.

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