Pence signs roads bill into law, touts state’s growth in VU visit
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 27, 2014 4:30PM
Indiana Govenor Mike PEnce signs into law HEA 1002 Thursday at Valparaiso University with Ed Soliday at his side. |Dan Shelton/Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 29, 2014 6:31AM
VALPARAISO — Gov. Mike Pence joined almost 200 business and community leaders Thursday in the Harre Union at Valparaiso University to sign a new law that could bring in as much as $400 million for highway projects statewide.
Speaking to the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, Pence said the measure could mean nearly 10,000 jobs and a widening of Interstate 65 in this region and improving major road arteries across the state.
“I’m somebody who believes roads mean jobs,” he said as he reached the last point in a four-prong approach to continue growth in Indiana.
In no particular order, Pence said, the “four legs of the milking stool” were fiscal responsibility; pro-growth tax policies and regulations; educational reform; and infrastructure, which is where House Enrolled Act 1002, or the Major Moves 2020 Trust Fund, comes in.
The legislation, co-sponsored by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, provides $200 million this year and up to $200 million after December revenue forecasts for the coming year.
The Indiana Department of Transportation invests $750 million each year across the state, Pence said, but the new law would provide the necessary funding for more far-reaching projects.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley urged the Pence administration to stick by its promise to spend the money on major road upgrades.
“It’s important that we focus on supporting major improvements to major infrastructure across Indiana. This will ensure our communities get the resources they need in a way that’s fiscally responsible and beneficial to our state as a whole,” said Kenley, R-Noblesville.
Pence started his day at an Indianapolis child care center, where he signed legislation providing state funding for prekindergarten programs for low-income children for the first time, and joining 41 other states that already offer such assistance.
“It was very emotional for me,” he said, adding he wore a “Garfield” tie as an icebreaker for the kids before switching to a more business-like blue for the chamber lunch.
His next stop was in Chicago for a Forbes-sponsored business summit, which he used as an opportunity to take a few jabs at Indiana’s neighbor to the west and its financial struggles.
“I love going to Illinois,” he said. “It’s what I call low-hanging fruit.”
All joking aside, Pence touted the many good things happening in Indiana and Valparaiso.
Indiana is third in the nation for job creation, and the unemployment rate here is 6.4 percent, Pence said, the lowest rate in the Midwest. Unemployment was 8.6 percent when he took office last year.
“It is really extraordinary to see how business and industry are rolling their sleeves up even in these challenging times,” he said.
Pence and Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas also noted the recent groundbreaking for the Pratt Industries paper recycling plant, a $260 million project that will add 130 jobs in the community, as well as plans for a $100 million jet engine plant in Lafayette, to be built by GE Aviation.
“These are not isolated events,” Costas said. “Indiana is getting to be known as one of the top states in the nation and best places in the world to grow business.”