Jim Shella’s Political Blog


March 28th, 2014 at 1:30 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Lesley Weidenbener is in for Jon Schwantes today as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles bill signing week.  The topics:

  • The preschool funding bill
  • The business tax cuts
  • GE Aviation’s Lafayette plans
  • The Politico report on Pence for President
  • Dan Coats vs. Russia
  • Orangutans escape at the zoo

Bill to create a Preschool Pilot Program signed into law

March 27th, 2014 at 11:45 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that marks the state’s first investment in preschool education.  It is a bi-partisan accomplishment.

It is also a relatively small step into early childhood education, something that 41 other states already support.

The new law calls for a pilot project in 5 counties that will serve a few thousand disadvantaged kids.

Nevertheless, the governor put on a big show at the DayStar Childcare Ministry on the east side.  It’s one of the schools that may benefit from the new program that will create vouchers for families at or near the federal poverty level.

The bill signed by Mike Pence calls for a program to be up and running as soon as the fall.  He says that it will be established in areas with the most need but the 5 target counties have not yet been identified.

“I do believe that when it comes to our at-risk, most low income kids,” said Pence, “early learning programs can and do make a difference between a lifetime of success and a lifetime of falling behind, dropping back, and sometimes dropping out.”

“It’s the beginning of recognizing that early childhood education, if it’s done well, is expensive,” said Rev. Michael Bowling of DayStar Ministries, “but our children are worth that investment.”

The new law calls for investing $10 million of state money and up to $5 million of private money.

The state money will be taken out of the existing budget for the Family and Social Services Agency.

When happens next and where that money might come from is undetermined.

Pence for President? He’s listening.

March 26th, 2014 at 2:53 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Will Mike Pence run for President in 2016?

He’s not making any public moves in that direction a report says the governor is listening to encouragement.

That’s the key here, not just that people are encouraging Mike Pence to run, but that he’s also listening to them.

They are conservatives, including Gary Bauer, who decribes Pence as “formidible.”

That’s according to report on Politico.com, a political website carries a story titled “The Invisible Primary.”

The report says that “Pence is listening to people who hope he will run” and that Pence “strikes conservatives as a dazzling talent on paper.”

It says that Pence has met with prominent conservative activists.

At the end of last year Pence was asked if he would decide whether to seek re-election as governor, or pursue the White House during 2014?

“I don’t know if I’ll make a decision on that front next year,” he said, “but I can tell you that I really haven’t spent one second thinking about anything other than the job I was hired to do a year ago.”

And that answer hasn’t changed in the time since, at least not publicly.

We asked if he has any reaction to the Politico story or if he would confirm meeting with conservative leaders.  The governor’s spokeswoman didn’t respond.

But then, at this point, it would appear that it’s conservative leaders, and not the governor, who are floating a trial balloon.

GE Aviation confirms Lafayette plans

March 26th, 2014 at 12:02 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

It’s now official.  GE Aviation will build a $100 million jet engine plant in Lafayette.

The announcement was made at Purdue University Wednesday morning.  It means more than 200 high paying jobs are coming to Indiana by 2020.

The new facility will manufacture the LEAP engine.  That’s short for Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion.  GE Aviation has already sold 6,000 of them.

“With that backlog of sales we’ve got to move fast,” said GE Aviation CEO David Joyce.  “So we hope to break ground this year in Lafayette.  We hope to hire in 2015.”

GE already employs 1200 Purdue graduates and will be looking to hire more of them at the new jet engine plant.

“You have the skills, the attitude, and the entrepreneurial spirit that we need,” said Tony Aiello of GE Aviation, “to help assure that we meet the promise we made to our customers when they chose LEAP to power their aircraft.”

Among those taking part in the announcement were Governor Mike Pence and former governor, now Purdue President, Mitch Daniels.  They said negotiation with GE Aviation began 18 monts ago.

Tax changes helped lure GE Aviation to Lafayette area

March 25th, 2014 at 3:43 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

The governor signed a bill into law Tuesday that will lower corporate taxes in Indiana and it may be no coincidence that Mike Pence will take part in a major jobs announcement on Wednesday.

GE Aviation is planning a new manufacturing facility near Lafayette to build jet engines and a factor in the decision to come here was the Indiana tax climate.

When it comes to business investment that climate got better when the governor signed the bill that will cut the corporate tax rate from 6.5% to 4.9% over the next eight years.

It also gives counties the option to reduce the business personal property tax.

“In a state that is known for making things,” said Pence, “having a tax on technology and machinery and equipment just doesn’t make sense.”

“It just shows the community that we’re not sitting idle, we’re not sitting on our hands,” said Commerce Secretary Victor Smith.  “We’re always looking for ways to improve the place for investment.”

But the GE decision is also tied to support from Purdue where GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt appeared along with University President Mitch Daniels last October.

“We have a huge amount of Purdue grads,” said Immelt at the time, “and so to the faculty that are in the room I want to say thanks for what you do.”

The governor wouldn’t confirm specifics of the GE deal but he also had trouble hiding his excitement.  “Tomorrow’s announcement with GE aviation is among a series of stories in Indiana we’re excited to be a part of,” he said.

One state official called the GE deal Mike Pence’s “Honda” in reference to the Honda Assembly plant that Mitch Daniels lured to Greensburg.

Initial indications are that it’s not that big.  Honda has 2-thousand employees.

But it’s a major announcement, nonetheless.

Dan Coats calls for new Russian sanctions, explains Twitter humor

March 24th, 2014 at 5:43 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Senator Dan Coats wants the President to crack down on Russia in new and different ways.  He offered some of his own ideas in a speech delivered on the Senate floor  Monday.

In an interview from Washington, the GOP Senator said it’s time to double down on Russia.

“We need to think of every possible way we can to make the Russians pay a very heavy price for what they’ve done,” he said, “and to prevent them from doing it again.”

Coats also took to the Senate floor to make that case that Russian President Putin needs to be punished.

“Doing something now could prevent something much worse later,” he told the Senate.  “Standing up now could prevent something much more serious in terms of what we might have to do later.”

All this comes just days after Russia included Coats on a list of American officials named in a travel ban.

Coats responded with humor, going on Twitter to post a top ten list of things he won’t be able to do now.  His summer vacation in Siberia, he tweeted, is a no go.

Here’s the message he was trying to send”  “Hey, nothing you could do by listing me is going to have an impact on me.”

But the humor only goes so far.  “This is a serious issue,” he said.  “It needs a serious response.”

And that’s why he now wants to punish American allies who purchase weapons from the Russians.  “I think we have to hit the Russians hard on the economic side,” he said.  “They have a fragile economy.”

Coats also has a theory for the reason why he was on the list of people banned from Russia.  He linked it to his time served as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany during the Bush Administration.

He say that during that time Russian spies listened to everything he said.

Dan Coats takes to Twitter to respond to Russian sanctions

March 21st, 2014 at 2:25 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Indiana Senator Dan Coats one of 9 government officials who is being sanctioned according to a list issued by the Kremlin and the Indiana Republican has responded with humor.

Coats first used humor when he issued an official statement after the Russian list came out Thursday but Friday he took to Twitter and took the humor to another level.

In the spirit of David Letterman, Coats said, he produced the top 10 things he won’t be able to do since President Vlamir Putin banned him from Russia.

For example, he said “I won’t be able to compare the Bolshoi Opera House with the Paladium in Carmel.”

He also said he “won’t be able to buy his wife Marsha a Russian mink Coat for Christmas.”

“Putin has imperial ambitions motivated by his pathological insecurities,” said Coats in a recent speech on the Senate floor, “in a quest to restore lost glories.”

In the speech he put forth a resolution calling for sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.

In the time since he has spoken out on cable TV.  “The United States needs to stand strong, it needs to lead,” he said on CNN.  “It needs to lead its European allies and its friends around the world in condemnation of this.”

He has also used local media to spread his message.  “I think we should use all the leverage that we have to make sure the Russians understand this is a breach of international law,” he said on WISH-TV.  “This is something that’s not acceptable.”

Coats called for expelling Russia from the G-8 and Nato, and for moving 2018 World Cup Games to another country.

That serious tone was gone, however, when Coats joked on Twitter that he won’t be able to compare Russiaville, Indiana with Russia.
And, at the top of his top ten list he said, “Our summer vacation in Siberia is a no go.”

Ironically, the co-sponsor of the Coats resolution, Dick Durbin of Illinois, is not on the list of people being sanctioned by Russia.  Three White House aides, Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid are.

Meantime, Indiana’s other Senator, Joe Donnelly, is currently on an overseas trip that includes a stop in Ukraine.


March 21st, 2014 at 10:28 am by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Tim Berry is the Republican and Lesley Weidenbener is in for John Ketzenberger as the Indiana Week in Review panel tackles these issues:

  • The ethics investigation involving Rep. Eric Turner
  • Jim Irsay’s arrest and what it means for an Indianapolis Super Bowl
  • Michael Claytor’s call to recognize gay marriages from other states
  • Greg Zoeller’s explanation of his defense of Indiana marriage law
  • A roundtable on the 2014 General Assembly
  • No Indiana teams in the NCAA tournament

State Auditor candidate talks gay marriage

March 20th, 2014 at 5:09 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

A candidate for State Auditor wants gay marriage to be an issue in that race.

Michael Claytor is a Democrat who hopes to unseat Republican Auditor Suzanne Crouch.

He appeared outside the government center where state tax returns are processed to argue that people who benefit from gay marriages in other states should not have to file their Indiana taxes seperately.

“Indiana should recognize their marriage,” said Claytor, “and allow them to file a joint tax return in Indiana.”

He pointed out that a couple in a traditional marriage needs to transfer just one number from their federal tax return to their state tax return.
A couple in a gay marriage needs to produce 5 forms and 28 numbers, he said.

“That’s an unbelievable amount of additional paperwork,” said Claytor, “that is not necessary.”

It is required because of a vote in the state Senate earlier this month on a bill authored by Brandt Hershman.

“Same sex couples have never been recognized in this state,” said Sen. Hershman at the time.

It makes gay marriage an issue in a statewide race.

Republican Auditor Suzanne Crouch voted for the ban on gay marriage when she was in the General Assembly, but state GOP Chairman Tim Berry says Claytor is misguided because the auditor has no authority over tax forms.

“Obviously he doesn’t know the responsibilities for the job that he’s seeking,” said Berry, “and Suzanne Crouch is focused on the responsibilities of being the Auditor of State.”

Claytor, on the other hand, even stated a position on gay marriage saying, “So far in Indiana that’s not possible and that should not be the case.”

Claytor has even created forms to help people in a same sex marriage figure out their Indiana taxes.  They’re available on his campaign website.

Obamacare signup “as expected” in Indiana

March 19th, 2014 at 4:58 pm by under Jim Shella's Political Blog

Five million people have enrolled in Obamacare nationwide and the deadline is now 12 days away.

A spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the only company offering Obamacare policies statewide in Indiana, said the signup here has met expectations.  The company is pleased with the numbers.

Statewide almost 65,000 people have signed up according to the most recent statistics out of Washington.

35% of them, the largest portion, are in the 55-to-64 age group.

88% of them qualify for federal subsidies, higher than the national average.

John Tankersly is one of them.  Last October we told you how he struggled to sign up on healthcare.gov.  After 18 days of frustration he was investing a lot of time and getting desperate.

“I would say upwards of 25-30 hours,” he said back then, “and my wife is very anxious by the fact that we, she and I, do not have health insurance right now through her job.”

Tankersly’s wife Debbie reports that he was eventually successful.  The government is now using stories like theirs to encourage enrollment in TV ads.

And the White House recently unveiled a new approach.  “We are doing a March Madness enrollment push to reach our fellow college basketball fans,” said spokesman Jay Carney, “expecially young adults before the March 31st deadline.”

“Hi, I’m LaBron James,” begins one ad. “I know how important it is to take care of yourself, your friends and your family.”

That star studded sales pitch is also aimed at attracting more men to Obamacare because 55% of enrollees are women.

The Tankersly family, meantime, is already making use of its new health insurance.  That’s because Debbie recently fell on the ice and had to be hospitalized.

She said that, signup problems aside, this has been a good experience for her family.

That’s the sort of the thing the White House wants to hear.

Barak Obama’s legacy may be at stake.