Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press and Hoosier State Press Association.
Job training could improve poverty rates
Indiana’s economy has come a long way back from the depths of the recession.
But a new report says we still have a long way to go. Indiana fell harder than almost any other state during the downturn. The median income of Hoosier families slumped by 27 percent from 2000 to 2011.
As a result, one-third of Hoosiers officially rank as low-income residents, and more than 45 percent of Indiana’s children live in low-income families.
Those numbers come from the Indiana Institute for Working Families, an organization that aims to fight poverty.
But its conclusions match those from a very different organization, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. In May, the Chamber reported that Indiana had the 34th lowest poverty rate of the 50 states in 2011. That marked a major decline from 2000, when Indiana had the 12th lowest poverty rate.
The Institute for Working Families report does more than just point out Indiana’s problems. It also offers constructive ideas for raising our state’s fortunes.
Most significantly, the institute calls for the state to train more “middle-skill” workers, helping them earn certificates that lead to good jobs.
Hoosier workers need training beyond high school — but not necessarily college degrees — to qualify for jobs that will make their lives rewarding, the institute says. Plus, Indiana employers are crying for workers with more skills.
It sounds as if new Gov. Mike Pence is right on target with his push to increase job-specific training for Hoosiers.
The state could encourage the process by providing more financial aid to students who enroll in technical training, the institute says.
State leaders would be likely to see a rapid payback from investing in technical training. Studies show workers can earn at least 20 percent more money with post-high-school training. More wages equal more taxes paid to the state.
But on the topic of taxes, the institute suggests that Pence could have used more imagination on tax reform than his simple cut in income tax rates.
The report says Indiana has the ninth most regressive tax system in the nation, with the seventh-highest taxes on poor people. A regressive tax policy puts a heavier burden on low incomes than on higher incomes.
One source of unfairness comes from Indiana’s low personal exemption on income taxes. It’s been set at $1,000 per family member for the last 50 years. If it had kept pace with inflation, it would be around $7,600 today.
Hoosiers could use more tax reform, but improving job training should be an even higher priority.
In spite of our gloomy statistics on poverty, Indiana has managed to build a healthy state budget surplus. Training Hoosiers for better jobs would be a smart way to spend it.
— KPC News
Canada tragedy fuels rail-pipeline debate
The tragic loss of at least 13 lives in the Canadian border town of Lac-Megantic to a fireball of burning crude oil is sure to ramp up debate about how petroleum products should be moved across North America.
One sure talking point is that oil is moved more safely by pipeline than rail — a linchpin for proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline. But Saturday’s accident of a 72-car runaway fuel train should renew focus on just how safe those long black snakes of oil tankers are in a crash.
Depending on the government stats used, pipelines have been safer in terms of injuries and deaths and total spills than rail or truck when transporting oil and other fuel products. But pipeline spills resulted in average releases of more than 19,000 gallons per incident between 2005 and 2009. Tank cars averaged just under 1,700.
What is clear is that crude oil isn’t going to stop riding the rails to refineries. Although pipelines still move the bulk of crude oil, trains are carrying 10 times more than they were just five years ago.
Some analysts speculate that even if Keystone is never approved, rail eventually will be able to carry all the shale and tar sands crude the region can produce.
— Evansville Courier & Press
FDA stepping up farm protection efforts
Last summer’s tainted cantaloupe fiasco has led to welcome new federal food safety regulations this summer.
Three people died as a result of the salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupes from a southwestern Indiana farm. To decrease the chances of similar food-linked illnesses or deaths, the Food and Drug Administration plans to inspect packing sheds and fields. Inspectors will also take samples of melons and test for salmonella, E. coli and other common pathogens passed on to humans from tainted produce.
The Indiana Department of Health has hired two farm food safety consultants to help educate Hoosier farmers about the new rules.
The deaths last summer as well as the 2011 listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupes that killed 33 people are a reminder of why common sense regulations on farming are necessary to protect public health.
— The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne