Statehouse candidates focus on education, jobs, transportation
BY Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com October 15, 2012 4:06PM
Updated: November 22, 2012 6:06AM
Republican candidate and Highland attorney Bill Fine is challenging incumbent Mara Candelaria Reardon in Indiana House District 12.
Although Fine argues he would bring Northwest Indiana a seat with the majority, Candelaria Reardon said she has established relationships that make sure she can help her constituents.
Candelaria Reardon, a Munster resident who has served in the office since 2006, said she wants to focus on commuter rail in Northwest Indiana and making sure that money is spent on the residents who most use it. She’s concerned about a plan for South Shore improvements in South Bend, considering the majority of riders live in Lake County. Instead, she said, the money could be better spent in building an extension to Lowell, helping communities such as Munster, Highland and Dyer.
“Couldn’t those funds be used more appropriately where they’re increasing ridership?” she said.
Candelaria Reardon said she wants to look at changing the composition of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board, which oversees the South Shore, to give better representation to region residents.
Another concern is job creation, Candelaria Reardon said. To that end, she wants to provide incentives to bring in small businesses and to help provide jobs for veterans returning from service. One thing the state can do is provide retraining programs in high technological skills, she said.
As for education, Candelaria Reardon said she is not set against the state’s voucher program but is concerned about it taking money away from well-performing schools such as the School Town of Munster. The state should find another way to fund vouchers, she said, instead of by taking money away from public schools.
“If you keep underfunding high-performing schools, they’re not going to be high-performing schools for ever,” she said.
Although she will likely be a member of the minority if re-elected, Candelaria Reardon said she has proven she can work effectively anyway, such as securing funding to maintain the Little Calumet River levy.
“You have to be able to work together,” she said.
Republican candidate Fine, of Munster, said job creation is the biggest issue he’s heard in talking with residents. He gave credit to the state for already taking some steps and said he now wants to focus on the region’s transportation — including its port, airport, rail and interstates — as a way to help it economically.
“I think if we could develop that area, that will help create more jobs,” he said.
Specifically, he would look at giving a 35 percent income tax credit for people who invest in infrastructure and logistics, Fine said.
Fine also expressed concern about educational funding, saying that Munster ranks 348th out of 357 school district in money per capita while Gary is ranked third. Fine said he understands the need for Gary to receive more money but that same money comes from other schools like those in Munster, Highland and Griffith.
“They’re ultimately going to get to the point where they will have to shed programs,” Fine said.
He would like to see a more equitable distribution of school funding, he said. He added that perhaps some of the education money being spent on Gary deals with social and economic problems that should likely be addressed by other state departments instead of the Department of Education.
Another issue to tackle, Fine said, is funding for poor relief. Right now, each township pays for its own, meaning North and Calumet townships pay more than other townships because they have a greater need. Fine said he doesn’t think township government should be abolished completely but that perhaps metropolitan areas don’t need it anymore.
Fine said he realizes he would come from an area that usually leans Democratic and would work with local leaders on projects. At the same time, he said, he would give the region a voice in what will likely be the majority party.
“You have somebody who can get a meeting with (Speaker of the House) Brian Bosma,” he said.
Fine also said his 35 years as an attorney would help him immediately in crafting state laws.