Gubernatorial candidates discuss economic platforms, issues during a forum on Friday
Six candidates running for governor in Indiana discussed their running platforms and economic issues throughout the state at a forum on Friday. Five Republicans and one libertarian gubernatorial candidate discussed taxes, the state of the economy and other investments during the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corporation annual meeting.
Republican candidates Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, former Attorney General Curtis Hill and former commerce secretary Brad Chambers joined Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater to discuss how they saw the economy informing their platforms as governor.
Crouch said she is adamant about eliminating Indiana’s income tax and ending “wasteful government spending.
“[Hoosiers] are being crushed by the high cost of living, by inflation, Bidenomics,” she said. “We can put thousands of dollars back into their pockets every year.”
Braun said he is a “problem solver” committed to taking measured risks in his economic pursuits.
“It’s a question of how you take the opportunity, what your risk profile is,” he said. “Will you stick your neck out and get into areas that maybe others have avoided at the time?”
Growing Indiana’s economy is the number one priority, said Chambers.
“A prosperous economy lifts all people up,” he said. “When people are prosperous, their health is better, their mental health is better, their kids are better, their house is better, their quality of life is better. So I believe that the number one job of the governor is to grow the economy and create prosperity for all folks.”
Doden said his focus is on connecting directly with all communities to inform his economic vision.
“And so that’s what I believe that the most important thing the governor does is partner with you guys to make sure that your community is successful,” he said.
Hill emphasized how the pursuit for freedom and liberty will inform his economic decisions if elected governor.
“The best thing that the governor can do from an economic development standpoint is to preserve your freedom to run, to make decisions,” he said. “And we do that by attacking the bureaucracy.”
Libertarian candidate Rainwater said Indiana’s property tax is too high, and he wants to focus on better use of Indiana tax dollars.
“I think that the role of the governor should be to keep government out of your way,” he said. “To reduce the regulatory burden on local economic development efforts.”
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The candidates also discussed what traits governor candidates would look for in secretary of commerce or economic development corporation candidates.
The majority of candidates said they would focus on diversity within the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, including Chambers.
“Diversity of geography, diversity of industry, diversity of use and having small, medium and large businesses really focusing on the future to grow the economy, grow the top line, would be very important,” he said.
Doden talked about his hope for candidates that are skilled in their roles, but work well together.
“What we're looking for are people that also work together as a team, have a high level of character, chemistry and then are competent, and can make sure that we have a successful economy going forward,” he said.
The forum also featured questions about various development projects throughout the state and what candidates thought of these pursuits.
One such development project is the LEAP, or Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace District, that was approved in Lebanon. Questions have risen about the project’s sustainability and particularly its use of a potential pipeline of water from the Wabash Alluvial aquifer near Lafayette.
Candidates were asked their thoughts on this project and if they believe Hoosiers should be happy resources are being allocated to this.
Some candidates, including Crouch and Hill, flagged concerns about lack of transparency within the project.
“If you don't have water for your project and you have to pipe water in from 53 miles away, wouldn't it make more sense to move your project to where the water is?” Hill asked.
Rainwater called the project a “bad overreach” of government, focusing on how some government officials, particularly those in Tippecanoe County, are “not pleased” with the idea of this project.
Candidates were also asked about the READI project, or the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, and if they support its current and future efforts.
Some candidates like Crouch were supportive. She said she was supportive of the initiative thus far and in the future as its collaboration is helping to shape the future of Indiana.
Some candidates, like Rainwater, were not.
“The state government, the federal government, they took that out of your paycheck,” he said. “They took that out of your pocket. And now what they do is they create a program where they say, now we've got this money. And we're going to give it to you. Some of it. You can compete for it.”
Greater Columbus EDC members said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer McCormick was invited to attend the forum, but declined due to scheduling conflicts.
The primary election in Indiana is on May 7, 2024 and the general election is Nov. 5.