By Morton Marcus
What are the annual costs of the potholes that decorate the cities of Indiana? Maybe our vacationing legislature could set up a summer study committee to reinforce their continuing neglect of our state?
“Vacationing legislature?” you ask.
Yes, I answer. They have been in session for weeks and not dealt seriously with any serious issue. Many come to Indianapolis and are on holiday, eating and schmoozing as they never could do at home.
The few who are serious about their roles in our lives may require serious therapy, if they are not to retire discouraged, disgusted and depressed.
What other body of irresponsible people could spend so much time debating Sunday liquor sales and cold beer regulation?
Who else could permit payday loans to carry 222 percent annual interest rates for desperate borrowers?
Do you know any rational person who would deny a committee hearing for a bill to set standards for redistricting?
How could decent people reject preserving a portion of our remaining state forests?
Over the years, our General Assembly has undermined Hoosier schools, weakened our cities and towns, and, in the guise of helping business, contributed to the on-going impoverishment of many households. In this session, they have proposed using all corporate income taxes to repay firms for training workers. Shouldn’t these companies pay to train their own workers?
Which brings us back to the condition of our roads and the long-term inadequacy of sustaining our infrastructure. Many years ago, Congressman Lee Hamilton asked me to report to Congress on the costs of repairing and maintaining Indiana’s roads, bridges, sewer and water lines, and other essential physical aspects of 20th century life.
The estimated cost was then in the tens of billions of dollars. The then lieutenant governor examined the report and dismissed it as an unimaginable sum of money. As expected, the Congress too ignored the reports produced by each state.
Now the Indianapolis mayor is asking to move funds (not raise taxes – he’s up for reelection in 2019) so that $14 million can be used to fill potholes. How much is needed to meet the current needs in your community?
More importantly, what is being done at Purdue, our great engineering school, to find a solution to the pothole problem? Yes, I know Purdue educated Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, who never revisited after he found a landscape full of potholes.
But it didn’t help with our Indiana potholes. Why hasn’t Purdue gone before the legislature and sought money for a solution to our pothole problems?
Perhaps, if the legislature was intent on doing something of value for Hoosiers, they would offer money to the first company or university to provide a solution to this problem.
Why, I’d bet even Indiana University, Notre Dame, Ball State University, Indiana State University or University of Southern Indiana might find such a prize-worthy of attention.
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.