All it took to loosen the state’s purse strings was a crippling closure on a major Interstate!
I’m sure by now everyone’s heard about the I-65 closure downstate, which has turned a relatively quick drive into a long and winding full-day trip through scenic Indiana. It’s a bad situation that affects residents from here to Indianapolis, both in business and their commutes.
Fortunately for drivers and the people who depend on them, Governor Mike Pence has responded the right way. After resisting using the state’s reserve funds for much of his tenure, he has announced support for using some of the over $2 billion in the state's coffers to fix faltering roads and bridges.
In 2016. Also, it's dependent on the state legislature approving such an infrastructure plan when they convene in January.
This kind of urgent situation is what reserve funds are there for, so this is the right thing to do. The only question is, why wait until next year when roads need to be repaired now, and there’s over four months left in 2015?
This is pure speculation, but I have a theory: 2016 is gubernatorial election year, and Pence is looking very vulnerable right now. If the state legislature approves a major infrastructure repair, it might be a good issue on which a candidate can run. Moreover, using reserve funds to pay for it would preclude raising taxes, and in 2016 it would be pretty recent, whereas by then the RFRA and its fallout will be a year in the past, practically forever ago in our constant news cycle.
Maybe there are other reasons why the Governor is waiting to act. In his defense, given how brutal our last two winters were, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to wait until after winter to start such an undertaking.
But if it’s just about politics and public perception, I must say that a leader who does the right thing when it needs to be done looks much better than a leader who waits until it would be the most politically opportune.