EDITOR’S NOTE—Today, the Daily Journal presents a sampling of editorials from around the state:
Congress stalling on immigration reform
The Times, Munster
The IFIRE screening of a controversial film on illegal immigration highlights the simmering problem that Congress has yet to address.
IFIRE, or Indiana Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, sponsored the screening of “They Come to America,” a documentary by filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, at the Hobart Art Theatre.
“I wanted people to get the big picture,” IFIRE co-founder Cheree Calabro said.
The film tells of Lynch’s journey across the nation as he discussed issues relating to illegal immigration.
While jobs and the economy have dominated the presidential campaign — and rightfully so — illegal immigration should not be kicked far down the road. Reform is needed.
President Barack Obama took a step in this direction with his decision to, in essence, implement key portions of the DREAM Act proposed in recent years by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind.
The centerpiece of that legislation was the creation of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, brought here by their parents.
Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, recently said if he is elected, he would honor the visas awarded by the Obama administration to children of illegal immigrants.
That would address part of the immigration problem, but it doesn’t address future illegal border crossings.
Congress needs to revisit the quota system, as well as the path to citizenship, and make sure there are enough visas for the workers American employers need.
Making visas easier to obtain would discourage illegal immigration. Why cross the border illegally, paying federal income taxes without being able to reap the benefits, when you can do so legally?
Once this new law is in place, the federal government must make sure it is enforced. The federal E-Verify program, for example, must be workable for nationwide use.
This is the immigration reform the nation needs. Stop dawdling on this issue and bring real immigration reform.
State takes a gamble on lottery
The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne
Unlike the state’s doomed decision to outsource the processing of welfare applications, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with hiring a private contractor to handle the Hoosier Lottery’s marketing, distribution and sales. After all, 88 percent of the lottery’s functions are already outsourced; the plan announced last week to hire a private vendor for marketing and distribution brings it to 95 percent.
But make no mistake: For the contractor to meet the state’s lofty goal of increasing lottery profits $100 million a year during the next five years, Hoosiers will have to pay. And the deal might not prove to be the sure winner that officials claim it will be.
Providing welfare benefits — including Medicaid for people in nursing homes — is a government function, and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ decision to hire private companies to take applications via computers and 800 lines instead of in person at welfare offices proved to be a colossal failure.
But for the lottery, the new contractor — GTECH — will be responsible for selling a product to willing buyers. GTECH already contracts to sell scratch-off lottery tickets in vending machines. To the extent the company can find efficiencies and other ways to cut costs, state government will receive a higher profit.
But to boost income as much as state officials hope, the state has to sell more lottery tickets. Some sales will go to out-of-state visitors, but much more will go to Hoosiers. The lottery is essentially a voluntary tax, one that weighs heavily on lower-income people. The lottery’s director acknowledges the lottery commission wants GTECH to “broaden the base” of players.
To be successful, GTECH will need to make buying lottery tickets more enticing and exciting — and that means more Hoosiers will lose money gambling.
Flaws revealed with Lee case
The Herald-Times, Bloomington
The state has a dilemma: What to do with Robert E. Lee?
The man convicted of killing a Bloomington woman in 1986 and cutting her body to pieces was released from the state prison system and placed on parole Sept. 22. Terms of his parole require his new address to be listed within 72 hours on the state’s online Violent & Sex Offender Registry.
He was brought to Bloomington, and local reaction was fast and furious. Then he was moved to Jennings County to the same hostile reception. On Monday, he was moved again and has spent the last 48 hours in a new location. The clock is ticking toward the posting of that address on the state’s registry.
On paper, our system of justice allows a convicted felon to serve his time and then be released to a new life outside the prison walls. This case shows flaws in that system and how its terms are defined. Lee was sentenced to 60 years in prison, but because of Indiana’s good-time laws and incentives for educational attainment, he was released in about 26 years. That leads many to question whether he truly served his time, considering the heinous nature of what he did to Ellen Marks.
Though current law does not require it (his conviction predates the registry), disclosure of his address as part of his parole is prudent because of the horrible crimes he’s committed. But that knowledge has galvanized communities against Lee’s presence and virtually guaranteed he has no chance to lead any sort of life outside of prison. That’s just a fact, not meant as a sentimental observation.
The state needs a better way to deal with the release of people such as Lee. Following current law would have left a community unaware of his presence. After a year on parole, his name will disappear from the registry. That’s not right.
But releasing him to no prospects and no hope for prospects because of a Frankenstein-style branding yields its own questions.
The Indianapolis Star. Oct. 3, 2012.
Indiana has opportunity to exploit fiscal advantages
As Hoosiers, we’re all too accustomed to hearing that our state ranks near the bottom on everything from smoking and obesity rates to education attainment and personal income. But here’s one ranking in which Indiana excels: state government debt, as measured both per capita and per private sector worker.
A state-by-state analysis released by the nonpartisan advocacy group State Budget Solutions found that Indiana’s debt per person is about $5,700. That’s less than half of the national average of $13,000 per capita for state governments.
In fact, among the 50 states, only Nebraska ($4,200) and Tennessee ($5,300) have lower per capita debt. Indiana is second in the nation, behind only Nebraska, in average debt for each private sector worker. And, at less than 15 percent, we’re third in the nation, behind Nebraska and Tennessee again, in state debt as a percentage of gross state product.
The study also indicates that Indiana is in relatively good position to meet future public-sector pension obligations, a circumstance that should enable the state to maintain its recent history of strong fiscal discipline even as the large baby boomer generation retires. Again, that runs counter to the circumstances most states face in terms of pensions for teachers, public safety workers and other public employees.
In short, Indiana’s elected leaders, most notably Gov. Mitch Daniels, truly have been frugal with the public’s dollars. As a result of that frugality, Indiana now has much more fiscal flexibility than most other states, including our neighbors in Illinois, who are staggering under a per capita debt of more than $21,000 a person.
Such flexibility isn’t merely a matter of bragging rights. Unlike states carrying heavy debt loads, Indiana should have the means to address unmet needs, including a long overdue investment in early childhood education. And we can do so without wrecking a tax structure that’s been rebuilt in recent years to promote economic development.
Bottom line: Indiana is emerging from a deep national recession with an honestly balanced two-year budget and relatively low long-term debt. We’ve developed a strong competitive advantage, one the incoming governor and other state leaders need to aggressively exploit.