FSSA, Higher Ed: When will the privatization stop?

N2209624570_28199 This might be old news to you but some Hoosiers are still facing problems that jeopardize the ability to keep their mortgages up-to-date and food on the table. Many of your neighbors are going hungry and growing sicker due to FSSA's continued lack of efficiency when it comes to deserving Hoosiers who can't catch a break.

Today there was a meeting of Committee on Welfare Privatization Issues (COWPI) in Anderson. Representatives from Madison County Triad, United Senior Action, Hoosiers First and the Alliance for Retired Americans met to vet problems concerning the revocation of food stamp benefits and other basic benefits that were previously available to Hoosiers. Look for an article here sometime later tonight or tomorrow.

Many a wingnut will tell you this is Indiana's problem when in fact, those of us in public service know that this is what keeps many Hoosiers from getting sleep at night. Have an FSSA problem? Tell someone. State legislators are keeping tabs on this growing problem. As State Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson) notes in the article, she is receiving a wealth of calls regarding FSSA's clear lack of efficiency in caseload and constituent services.

From Brandi Watters' Herald Bulletin story:

Jason Shawhan cannot work. The 32-year-old Elwood man and his 20-year-old wife are both mentally disabled and have relied on the welfare system for food and health care for the majority of their adult lives. Today, Shawhan is unable to visit the doctor or refill his prescriptions and the balance on his food stamp LINK card is at zero because after 12 years of being on welfare, Shawhan has been found ineligible for services.

The last straw? Mitch's vacuous promise to cover two years of higher education for each Hoosier. Nevermind how to pay for it. Perhaps we could privatize the lottery in order to fix the FSSA problem so that kids like Jason Shawhan can actually attend college, instead of worrying about how his mom is going to feed her family.

This from the same party that gave us, "Gaming...is the crack cocaine of public policy" (Brian Bosma). You can't have it both ways, boys.

Posted by: divanongrata

Get Rid of the Gipper? Mitch raises eyebrows with Reagan comments

Tell me about a politician in an election year lecturing on leaving the legacy of Reagan behind, and I won't be surprised. Tell me that politician is a Republican, and I'll call you a liar. And yet, here's the Guv with a little bit of controversy:

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels elicited several hushed gasps and raised eyebrows late last week as he lectured a conservative crowd that it was “time to let Ronald Reagan go.”

The governor delivered his remarks to a room full of fellow red-staters at the Fund for American Studies’ annual conference and donor retreat at the Newseum.

“Nostalgia is fine and Reagan’s economic plan was good,” Daniels said. “But we need to look towards the future rather than staying in the past.” Daniels added that the GOP needed to work on uniting behind Sen. John McCain instead of constantly comparing the Arizona senator with the Gipper.

While he prefaced his remarks with the disclaimer that his thoughts were “somewhat controversial,” he hoped that he “would not be misunderstood.”

Incidentally, applause was somewhat less enthusiastic as he left the stage than when he began by poking fun at Barack Obama.

Posted by: Thomas

Helpful Hints: BP, Governor shared information before hearing

I'm still torn on whether there is actual fire amidst all of this smoke, but any article that contains a description of Mitch Daniels as "shady and inappropriate" gets a free shout-out in my book.

This is an AP version of yesterday's Gitte Laasby piece in the Gary Post-Tribune.

Gov. Mitch Daniels’ has said he won’t meddle in a new air pollution permit for BP’s Whiting refinery, but e-mail exchanges indicate the oil giant kept his office informed of arguments supporting the new permit, a report Sunday said.

BP sent talking points, advance copies of newspaper ads, and company responses to media inquiries to the governor’s office in the months leading up to a March 14 public hearing conducted by Daniels’ Department of Environmental Management, according to e-mail messages between his office and BP obtained by the Post-Tribune of Merrillville

A BP manager for government and public affairs, Margaret Laney, sent an e-mail to David Pippen, a Daniels aide on environmental issues, nine days before the public hearing in Hammond under the subject line “BP talking points – revised,” reported the newspaper, which obtained the e-mail messages under a public information request.


After a speech in Valparaiso on March 25, Daniels said his office had not been involved with the permit.

Daniels’ press secretary, Jane Jankowski, said there was nothing unusual with the e-mails. She said the governor’s office receives news releases, advisories and other documents from trade groups, non-profits and others involved in public policy debates.

However, Kim Ferraro, an attorney with the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana, said it was shady and inappropriate for the governor to accept talking points from BP.

Posted by: Thomas

Expensive half-truths: Guv sitting on lots of cash

Not that anyone is surprised by this, but the Guv has a huge warchest.

New campaign reports released this afternoon show Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has continued to raise far more campaign cash than his Democratic opponents.

Between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, Daniels raised $1.5 million, bringing the total amount raised by his campaign to more than $8.3 million. At the end of March, he had more than $5.2 million in cash on hand.

Daniels, who is unopposed, has raised more than three times the amount of his two challengers combined.

By comparison, Democrat Jim Schellinger raised $511,000 during the first three months of the year, bringing his total to $2.3 million. He had $715,000 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Democrat Jill Long Thompson has raised a total of $907,000, collecting $470,000 between January and March. Long, a former U.S. representative had about $485,000 in cash on hand.

Long Thompson and Schellinger are running for the Democratic nomination in the May 6 primary for the right to face off against Daniels. The two Democrats will hold their first, and perhaps only, debate is tonight in Fort Wayne.

He's an incumbent, he's had 4 years to raise money, and he doesn't have a primary, so nothing at all surprising.

Breaking news:  Tomorrow the sun will rise.

posted by tdwblog@gmail.com 

Working on the chain gang: Mitch fails yet again...

It's known in the world of politics that if you have news to release that you don't want anyone to notice, do it on a Friday.  Looks like Mitch used that idea to hide this inconvenient story.

Arizona inmates to leave Indiana prison

Arizona prisoners who've been involved in at least two disturbances at Indiana's New Castle Correctional Facility are returning west.

Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison says the prisoner-housing contract between the two states has ended. For security reasons he won't say when the inmates will be sent back.

Garrison says Indiana needs the space at the privately managed prison for its own inmates.

Some Arizona prisoners rioted there a year ago. Others fought with guards in January, triggering a lockdown at the prison.

Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Nolberto Machiche says that about 630 inmates are involved, and the DOC is working to make room for them in its prisons.

You might remember how excited Mitch was to announce this deal and all of the kajillions of dollars he was making for the State.  Of course, that was before egg was thrown on his face by multiple prison riots, at least one of which made national news coverage.  Oh well Mitch, only 8 more months of mistakes until you're free from the stresses of having to govern.

Posted by tdwblog@gmail.com

Aiming Higher: Indiana fails to meet federal gun regulations

As a general rule, I try to avoid posting stories that find a reason to quote Don Davis of the famed Don's Guns, but this morning is an exception. Vic Ryckaert of the Star takes a look at Indiana's current compliance with rules designed to keep guns away from the mentally ill, and finds the state's efforts to be sorely lacking.

"We don't have the infrastructure in place," said Jane Jankowski, spokeswoman for Gov. Mitch Daniels. "We know that we're not in compliance. Just like every other state, we are looking for solutions to come into compliance."

The NICS list identifies people who are banned from buying guns because of felony convictions or mental health issues. The list contained more than 500,000 records of the mentally ill in 2005, according to Justice Department officials.

"As far as we can tell, Indiana reports zero records of people that are dangerously mentally ill," said Paul Helmke, director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the former mayor of Fort Wayne.

Of course, we aren't just like every other state, because a good many of them have come into at least partial compliance with the rules that are in place. Debates over the feasibility of these current rules aside, we can chalk this up to yet another national list that finds Indiana ranking in the bottom half.

Posted by: Thomas

Major Money : 73 years is a long time when you're already out of cash

A tip o' the hat to Masson once more for pointing out this morning's story in the Journal & Courier discussing the fact that Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette have already had their oft-touted Major Moves money dry up.

Considering that the foreign consortium currently in charge of this former state asset will be reaping mega-profits from Hoosier drivers beyond any of our lifetimes, it does seem a bit odd that some locales have already seen the last of any monetary benefit from the deal.

According to Tippecanoe County Highway Department executive director Opal Kuhl, department workers will repave only about 30 miles of road this summer. Last year, they repaved about 50 miles.

The reduction is due to a couple of factors. The county no longer has any money from the Major Moves statewide fund and the prices of asphalt and other oil-based products have risen significantly.

But the county isn't the only government entity with less money to pave roads. West Lafayette will also have to make do with less this summer.

When government entities stopped getting their annual payments from the Major Moves fund, "that took about $750,000 away from us," Kuhl said.

All local governments received annual money from the state's Major Moves project in 2006 and 2007.

Long-term planning, Mitch Daniels style. But don't worry, folks. If past behavior is any indication, we'll likely see some "special projects" pop up over the summer -- it is an election year, after all.

Renters for Mitch? Not likely after this...

There's a reason that Masson has taken to calling the guy Everybody’s Favorite Economist™ -- Larry DeBoer is everywhere. The Purdue University economist has been all over the property tax mess since day one, which is something that can't be said for certain Governors who embraced outright denial as the strategy du jour until the pitchforks came out.

DeBoer takes a look at the tax plan that was passed and comes to two conclusions.

First, the good news: Yes, some homeowners will see a net-tax decrease due to the restructuring, although the average savings won't likely be above $150 on the year.

And the aforementioned alternative: If you're a renter, things aren't nearly as nice.

But renters will pay more under the law, according to the report from DeBoer, who also works as an adviser to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

The tax legislation -- which the General Assembly passed and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law last month -- cuts homeowners' property tax bills by an average of 32 percent this year, offset in part with revenue from a sales tax increase that took effect April 1.

The sales tax rate increased to 7 percent from 6 percent.


The analysis found, however, that the median renter -- with a total household income of nearly $25,000 -- would pay an estimated $69 more annually. That's primarily because renters don't directly benefit from the property tax cut.

An income of $25,000 a year doesn't exactly scream, "I'm happy to take some of the burden of your tax cut," does it? It's worth noting that the tax bills would have been even higher for low-income renters if the Democrats in the General Assembly hadn't stepped to the plate and offered relief.

Posted by: Thomas

Legal Immigration: Should workers below-the-border get Hoosier jobs?

The Princeton Daily Clarion covers the recent criticism of Gov. Daniels over the choice to hire a Kentucky-based company to handle the construction of a new plant that will benefit from Hoosier tax dollars. In return for $2.2 million in incentives from the state, should these projects be required to hire Indiana-based companies?

Site preparation is substantially done, footers have been poured and steel should be arriving soon for construction of the Toyota Boshoku steel seat frame manufacturing plant next door to its sister plant, Total Interior Systems America.

But Evansville Building Trades Council Vice President Paul Greene said he's troubled by the number of Kentucky license plates on the job site.

Greene - who confirmed he placed two unsigned advertisements criticizing the hiring choices for construction of the plant recently in The Daily Clarion - said he's spoken to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels about using Indiana union labor on projects that benefit from state and local incentives.

He said his concerns apparently fell on deaf ears, but he still believes when a company gets $2.2 million in state incentives, and more than $1.8 million in local incentives in addition to property and personal tax phase-ins, jobs ought to go to Indiana workers.

Property Tax Relief: The Guv got a cut, didn't you?

Looking at the records for the Mitch Daniels' old residence, which I believe may still be on the market, it looks like the Governor did alright for himself after the reassessment: Nearly a 5% cut that amounts to just over $50,000 in savings.

Hooray tax savings!

But wait, says Tim Evans of the Star, because not everyone is feeling the warm, fuzzy embrace of these new assessed values. For some in Marion County, most notably those in Center Township, the new assessed values actually raised the tax burden even more. Couple this with the Guv's 1% sales tax increase, and the result is a lot of very upset people, many who were already struggling to make ends meet.

Manolis is not alone: Nearly 30,000 homeowners in Marion County are likely to receive revised bills higher than their original 2007 bills because of the reassessment, according to an analysis by The Indianapolis Star.

More than 20,000 of those who will end up paying more are in Center Township, where The Star found seven census tracts in which bills are likely to increase for 75 percent or more of the homeowners. Across the township, bills are expected to increase on four of every 10 homes.


But many in that and other up-and-coming areas close to Downtown also think the new assessments are too high, said John Johantges, owner of Property Tax Group 1, a Carmel-based business specializing in property assessment appeals.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," he said, "and a lot of those calls are from people in Center Township."

The higher appraisals seem to be hitting both affluent and low-income neighborhoods, Johantges said. But The Star's analysis shows low-income neighborhoods saw the brunt of the increase in Center Township.

Of the 32 township neighborhoods where a quarter or more of the homes will have higher tax bills, 58 percent of the households have a median income below $30,000.

Posted by: Thomas

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