Pence wants more Regional Cities money, Bosma wants road funding

February 23rd, 2016

The art of the deal, Indiana style

By The News-Sentinel

Gov. Mike Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma might want to consult with Donald Trump. They are entering into “art of the deal” territory and might need a few refreshers.

Pence wants a $42 million boost to his Regional Cities initiative, because the panel picking the honorees were supposed to choose two regions but picked three instead. That’s a piddly amount, but Bosma says, nope, not what we agreed to. It’s one of those “our word is our bond” deals.

Bosma, on the other hand, wants to boost the gas tax by four cents and add $1 to the price of a pack of cigarettes and a way to permanently fund road repairs. The plan, initiated in the House, has faced opposition in the Senate and from Pence.

It would make sense, Bosma says, “for those items to proceed together.” He’ll give the governor his extra Regional Cities money so he doesn’t have to tell Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville they’re going to have to scale back their projects. And he gets a way to avoid a piecemeal road funding plan year after year. Both the governor and the speaker have good reasons for pushing their projects, but we favor the governor’s and hope Bosma has the sense to back off.

The challenge of the 21st century, the governor says, is the ability to attract and retrain the necessary workforce for a dynamic economy. If the three regions are funded to the maximum $42 million each, matching funds raised at the local level would create a whopping pot of economic development money.

Bosma knows it is always hard to get tax increases passed. But now might be the optimum time, because the state has large surpluses and a good credit rating.

But any tax increase can act as a drag on the economy, and Bosma wants two of them. Further, the Regional Cities plan he’s holding hostage would be good for economic development. Some cynics would say deal making is good only for the politicians who reach the deals, since, no matter what happens, the taxpayer foots the bill.

But the real way to judge a deal is to look at who it is made for. Right now, taking more of Hoosiers’ money, however good the cause it is planned for, should take a back seat to helping our regions thrive economically. Back off, Mr. Bosma.