News and Tribune

June 27, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Opinions from other newspapers for June 27

Overriding Pence veto common sense

Last week, members of the Indiana General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in a special session to override a veto by Gov. Mike Pence of House Enrolled Act 1546.

That action — approved by the House and Senate — should save Jackson County taxpayers money in the long run.

Although we share the view of Pence and lawmakers such as Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, who voted to sustain the veto — that retroactively approving a tax generally isn’t good government — we’re just not so sure the governor was right last month when he vetoed the measure that allows Jackson and Pulaski counties to keep income tax collections after their taxing authority had expired by mistake.

As we’ve said before, this isn’t a new tax and county officials weren’t hoodwinking their constituents. The 0.1 percent additional rate on the county’s adjusted-gross income tax has been around since its enactment by the General Assembly in 1998. The revenue has financed and will continue to finance operations of the county jail and juvenile detention center.

The problem facing the county started in 2011 when local officials failed to seek a renewal of the tax. State officials failed to realize that as well, allowing the tax to be collected in 2012. That money, the governor said, should be refunded or credited to taxpayers.

Then, last summer when the county submitted its tax work to the state without the 0.1 percent adjusted-gross income tax, the state approved local tax rates but penciled that rate back into effect with no legislative authority for it, county officials say.

Had lawmakers sustained the governor’s veto, the county faced petitioning the General Assembly again next session. That — and the refunding of money already collected in error — would have meant a third year without collecting the tax. That means the county could have lost an estimated $2.1 million in revenue, which would have affected county government services, future construction plans aimed at meeting space needs and finding a permanent home for Jackson Superior Court II and ended up costing taxpayers more money.

Local taxpayers should appreciate that the governor stood his ground in vetoing the measure, just as they should appreciate that lawmakers overrode the veto. They all appeared to be looking out for the interest of Jackson County residents, but common sense, we think, rested with overturning the veto.

That said, we will repeat an admonition made in an earlier editorial on this costly mistake — county officials must make sure such an oversight doesn’t happen again.

— The Tribune, Seymourr


Better-prepared teachers crucial for Indiana

The pressure on teachers is admittedly more intense now than ever. Their salaries, job security and their schools’ rankings are increasingly dependent on their students’ academic performance. The new, clear message — deliver results — is unsettling to many veterans of a profession that for years was less focused on the bottom line.

Yet the stakes are even higher for our city, state and nation. And for the students themselves.

That’s because the economic future of communities and individuals is tied ever tighter to education attainment. To put it simply, those with the skills to flourish on a college campus will, on average, prosper in the work world of today. Conversely, those unable or unwilling to get training beyond high school are likely to struggle to find and keep jobs that pay a decent salary.

So it’s more vital than ever to ensure that the people hired to stand in front of classrooms to help prepare students are themselves well trained.

Unfortunately, a new national study indicates that far too many new teachers are not well-equipped to lead classrooms. The National Council on Teacher Quality, which analyzed data from more than 1,100 teacher training programs in preparing its report, described education schools as a whole as an “industry of mediocrity.” “The vast majority of teacher preparation programs do not give aspiring teachers adequate return on their investment of time and tuition dollars,” the report concluded. Academic standards for prospective teachers tend not to be high enough and student teaching assignments are not sufficiently challenging, the report found.

Not surprisingly, the deans at education schools in Indiana and elsewhere fired back at the study. Indiana University’s education dean, Gerardo Gonzalez, called the report “irresponsible.” The heads of teachers unions also attacked the findings.

But the study’s chief message — that too many new teachers aren’t adequately prepared — isn’t all that new. Prior research, for example, has found that more than 40 percent of teachers leave the profession within five years of launching their careers. Teachers drop out for various reasons — including low salaries and high salaries — but a significant percentage wash out because they can’t meet the expectations of the job.

And, as noted, those expectations are rising.

Instead of defensiveness about what may be a flawed report, Indiana’s teacher training programs need to soberly assess their own performance and their graduates’ post-college experiences, and then help lead a public discussion about the profession’s future.

— The Indianapolis Star


House fines flap went too far

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last week that fines against House Democrats who walked out on the job should stand. It says a lot about Indiana’s political culture that this case got that far.

The court voted 3-2 to reject Democrats’ attempt to rescind more than $100,000 in fines withheld from Democrats’ paychecks. The Democrats walked off the job for six weeks in 2011 to block passage of a right-to-work law that was eventually enacted in 2012.

“The separation of powers doctrine prevents the courts from reviewing political, social and economic actions taken within the exclusive province of coordinate branches of government,” wrote Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native.

Because it was not a criminal matter, the justices believed they shouldn’t get involved.

While we understand the court’s reticence to tinker with the inner workings of the legislative process, this dispute should not have gone before the court.

The Democrats shouldn’t have walked out on the job, and especially not for so long.

In a legislative body with no filibuster provisions, walking out is a form of protest, we recognize, and has been done by both Hoosier Republicans and Democrats over the years.

But this was a long walkout. One of the most basic job skills is showing up each day, but the Democratic lawmakers went AWOL for weeks. Try that with any other job, and you won’t be employed for long.

In fact, the House has nine fewer Democrats after the 2012 election. They now number 31.

We understand why the Republican majority saw fit to threaten to fine Democratic lawmakers. 

But when the Democrats returned, the Republicans should have forgiven the fines. The fines were meant to be the lever to move the Democrats back into the Statehouse, not to punish them for walking out. At least, that’s the approach that should have been taken. 

Someday the Republicans might find themselves in the minority and regret this heavy-handed precedent. Elephants have good memories, of course, but so do donkeys.

— The Times, Munster