With this November issue, Electric Consumer focuses on Indiana’s gubernatorial race between Democratic Party candidate John Gregg and Republican Party candidate Eric Holcomb.
Though Holcomb is currently Indiana’s lieutenant governor, the general public is still getting to know him. He was appointed to that position March 3 by Gov. Mike Pence after Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who ran with Pence in 2012, resigned to pursue the opening for president of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (a position she did acquire in May).
After Pence accepted GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s invitation to join him on the national ticket in July, a political musical chairs ensued for Pence’s position atop the Indiana ballot. Holcomb sought Pence’s seat, as did four other state and federal office holders. Shortly after, the Republican State Committee selected Holcomb to oppose Gregg, a former Indiana Speaker of the House and the Democratic candidate who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012. A whole new race began.
On Oct. 7, members of Electric Consumer staff and the government relations team at Indiana Electric Cooperatives sat down with Holcomb and Gregg separately at different times and locations in Indianapolis. We asked them the same questions about their goals for Indiana, and specifically rural Indiana, and about issues affecting Indiana’s electric co-op consumers.
Some of their unscripted responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Electric Consumer: Why are you running for governor?
Eric Holcomb: I want to take Indiana to the next level. I was around in 2005 and part of a new crew that came to state government when our state had twin deficits. We were $800 million in debt, in terms of the budget. We were spending more money than we were taking in, and we had an infrastructure deficit as well. We had projects that were on the shelves at INDOT that were just gathering dust because we had no way of paying for them.
And, so coming in, I was part of that turnaround of the state of Indiana, and since then, we’ve seen our fiscal picture improve significantly to the point where more Hoosiers are now working in the private sector than any time in our history — 200 years. We’re celebrating our bicentennial this December 11.
We have a low unemployment rate, 4.5, lower than the national average. We have a triple-A credit rating. We are no longer a fly-over state. We are a very attractive place for folks to risk their ideas and their capital and make a real go at it, and we’ve just become a magnet.
Now having said that, [it’s] no time to rest on our laurels because competition is fierce. I’m reminded of that fact every time I’m around my other cohorts, lieutenant governors from around the country, Republican or Democrat. Everyone is learning from others’ situations, and I know that we have states very close to us and countries around the world nipping at our heels.
So we have to always lean into this and keep our foot on the gas, keep the pedal to the metal, and I’ve focused on four key areas.
One — economic development: continuing to strengthen and diversify our economy. If you don’t get that right, it makes everything else that’s important hard to do. If you get that right, it makes it not easy, but it’s easier.
I’m focused on community development from the ground up.
I’m focused on excellence in education. It was said in a past presidential campaign, the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” and, I think it’s the workforce, stupid, these days. We have come so far on the economic front, but we have to make sure that we have the workforce that’s properly equipped for the demands of the 21st century. It goes hand-in-glove on the education front.
And then lastly, we’re charged to administer state government services. They should be a great taxpayer value.
John Gregg: As we were getting to the end of 2014, … I had to make the decision, and having done it before, I knew what it meant and I knew the commitment.
I came home one day and Lisa [Gregg’s wife] said to me, “I know you’re wrestling with this. I’ve got one question and one question only. If you can answer it, you’ll know what you should do.”
I remember her leaning up against the counter, and she said, “Do you want to be governor or,” she pointed a finger at me and said, “do you want to serve as governor? There’s a difference.”
She said, “If this is about wanting to be governor because you ran and you got defeated the time before, if this is about the title, if this is about the trappings, we don’t need that. You don’t need it. The state doesn’t need it. If that’s the case, stay here on the farm, practice law. We’ll have a good life. But if it’s truly about serving, having a servant’s heart, and putting other needs above your own, trying to find some common ground on those issues that are out there facing us that seem almost insurmountable, like trying to truly grow our economy where the wages actually go up rather than stagnate or go down. Trying to bring some peace and harmony in our education system where we take the politics out of it. Trying to come up with a whole bunch of issues where we know not everybody’s going to be happy, but where we try to find some common ground, then go ahead. You need to do it.”
It really got me, and I knew right then I should run. So, we’ve been on a full throttle for the last 22 months.
Electric Consumer: What are the three biggest challenges currently facing Indiana?
Gregg: We talk about four things. I talk about the economy — the quality of jobs, not the quantity of jobs.
You’ll hear my opponents say, “We’ve got 4.2 percent unemployment.” We do. The actuality is we’ve slid from 34th to 38th in just the last couple years in per capita income. An average REMC family of four sitting down for supper makes $7,000 a year less. That’s about $150 a week. Does that mean you drive a little nicer car, or you eat steak a little more often, or the kids get a little nicer birthday gifts? Those are quality of life issues. So, it’s focusing on the economy — number one — not on the divisive issues.
Number two, it’s education. We can sum that up real easy by pre-kindergarten and truly stop teaching to the test. I’ve worked for two Fortune 500 companies and been a university president, and you’re only going to be bring about change by those agents of change which are always at the grassroots level. That’s the classroom and education. The solution to make education better is in the classroom, and we’re going about that wrong. So, we want to include teachers in the process as we go forward, truly stop teaching to the test.
They’re doing away with ISTEP, but they’re giving it a different name. It’s the same ol’ same ol,’ just with a different name.
Third thing we talk about is our state infrastructure. We talk about roads and bridges. We talk about drinking water, waste water, storm sewers. Things that are really, really, really expensive, and hard to obtain in the rural area because you don’t have much of a tax base.
And if we’re going to grow these areas out there, they’ve got to have infrastructure, too. Our smaller towns that are so essential to the rural communities have to have that type of infrastructure. And we just don’t have it in Indiana. And also in that infrastructure is broadband.
I wish you could see the looks when I talk. When you say that 14 percent of the people in Indiana tonight are going to have no dependable cell phone service and/or no high speed internet, they look at you like, “this guy’s not right.”
In this day and age, it is just as important as when we had universal service for phones, when F.D.R., through the Rural Electric, electrified the country … after the Soviet Union, by the way, a little tidbit of history there. But we’re real big on that, and we’ve dragged our feet much too long.
Then the fourth thing we talk about is our drug epidemic. What we’re doing is not working. Our solution right now is building prisons. The drug dealer, the drug trafficker, the violent criminal needs put in those. But for the first-time offender, the low-risk, the no-risk, building prisons isn’t the solution because it’s not working, and we can’t build enough prisons.
There are statistics that show once you identify the people that rehabilitation helps, which is the majority of them, every dollar you put in rehab saves $4 in Medicaid, public health dollars, and every dollar also saves $7 in our criminal justice system. Just imagine if you could take your retirement plan and for every dollar you got $11 in return. Heck, you’d be retiring by now.
It’s a real, real, real, problem. It’s a social problem. It’s an economic problem. It’s in all our communities, and we think it takes groups that normally don’t talk to get together. It is a law enforcement problem, so you’ve got to have judges, prosecutors, local and state law enforcement. Then you’ve also got to have the rehabilitation people — the physicians, mental health people. You’ve got to have also workforce development and educators to get these people working and trained, and we need to get them to come up with a plan because what we’re doing has failed.
It’s not going to go away in one year or four years. There’s no one piece of legislation. We can’t have a fancy bill signing ceremony in the Governor’s office and get rid of it. It’s here, and we’ve got to a deal with it.
Holcomb: I would say complacency, the workforce and addiction.
Complacency, because of what I alluded to. It’s very easy once you get out in front to slow down, and to say, “OK, we’ve been through the tough time,” and to revert back to past practices or behaviors, and, allow the competition to not just catch you but pass you. Much of the last 12 years we’ve taken our state so far so fast. We have to continue that. We have to continue to attack the issues that are holding us back, or holding families back, with tenacity. So I would guard against complacency, number one.
It’s very easy to degrade. You can degrade quicker than you can build up, and it takes a long time to turn the ship around. We’re in a good place. We’re headed in the right direction. I want to continue that.
Two: We have a very strong economic foundation here, but we know that the jobs of the future — and I don’t just mean tomorrow, I mean 10 years out — require different skills. We have to make sure that we’re getting the STEM subjects not just into our high schools but into our junior high schools. We have to make sure we’re getting folks who maybe started a higher education to finish it with “You Can Go Back” type programs that we have here recently in Indiana to finish that degree. You get on a different path when you start something and stop, as opposed to starting and finishing.
We need to make sure that our high school students are getting their degree, they’re graduating, their GEDs, and, there’s programs for that as well. We need to make sure that we’re rewarding our universities for their outputs, and making sure that the students that are paying to go to school get a high-value education that will lead to a career.
Same true in high school, for high school graduates. Every student, when they get out of high school, deserves to have their own ticket to success in their hand so they know, am I going down the career path right now, through vocational training, or technical training, having the accreditation to go out into the workforce right now and start their career, or pursue higher education. That’s just a demand. So our workforce is of paramount importance in the strong economy that we have.
And then I would say, the drug addiction, this drug epidemic that is not just affecting our rural areas. It’s affecting our urban, suburban, rural areas. It’s truly nationally, not just Indiana, but it’s truly ripping apart our families and communities, and not to mention the cost.
But the heartache of it all is tragic, in and of itself. We’ve got to step up; and we are. The good news is we are talking about this issue more than we were 10 years ago. I can recall talking with some leaders around the state who were in denial, or didn’t want the word out that they had a meth problem in their community. They would literally say, “We don’t have that problem here.” Well, they did, they just didn’t want it to affect potential economic development opportunities. And so now, we’re coming at this differently. Now, it is truly a “all-hands-on-deck” issue, where there’s federal involvement, state involvement and certainly local involvement, and we’re attacking it through the governor’s task force, which was the absolute right thing, first step to take. That is to focus on making sure we’re enforcing, and focus on making sure we’re treating, and focus on making sure we’re preventing.
Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was talking about fire safety. Our communities are on fire on this front, and if you can prevent someone, if you can scare them straight earlier from ever starting, it’s a lot less expensive or costly on their life if you can prevent it from ever occurring.
Now, we’re not going to win on that front every time, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re doing all we can with our state police, with our local law enforcement, agencies, to prevent the heroin that is coming up from south of our border, and from the meth that’s being brewed on our streets, and opioids that are being passed around casually. It will take enforcement, and it will take treatment.
Now, folks are coming up to me regarding opioid abuse and heroin, almost every day when I’m on the road. When I’m looking in the eyes of the person that’s sharing their story with me, saying, “I’ve been dry six months, and I hope I’m dry six months from now,” that is a really difficult conversation to have. They want to survive this addiction and come out on the other end.
But it is a gripping, tough, situation, and so I’m encouraged that the state has taken some big steps with the neuro-diagnostic, institute partnership with the Community East Hospital, where we’re going to get 159 beds, which is 159 more than we have right now, to really do some research on mental illness and drug addiction, and get folks the treatment they need. Then get them back into their local community.
We could go on and on about this for four hours because it’s that important, but I would say those three: complacency and workforce and drug addiction. If we get those right, we’ll continue to be a national model on all three fronts.
Electric Consumer: We’ve seen a lot of migration away from Indiana’s rural communities in the past few decades. How do you think state government can reverse that trend and encourage more people to remain in and move to rural Indiana?
Holcomb: It’s a big passion of mine right now. As lieutenant governor, my portfolio oversees multiple agencies, but one of the common bonds, or links to one another, is community development, specifically in rural affairs. The regional cities initiative was a giant step forward. Having had the opportunity myself to travel this state, in the last year I’ve been to all 92 counties more than once, I’m blown away by the individual beauty and the assets, whether it’s a cave, or a covered bridge, or a world-class university. There is a billion dollars’ worth of construction going on right now on Notre Dame’s campus, just Notre Dame’s campus.
And when you step off campus and you go into the downtown area, there’s more construction. It’s not just all about that urban center. It’s about what surrounds them, the rural areas, that they can better leverage their attraction if we’re truly working together. And so that regional initiatives approach, I think, is the way of the future. Certainly it will help Notre Dame attract world-class faculty when they aren’t just tethered to a campus, but if there are options and diverse living, including the rural areas. We need to make sure that we’re connecting our rural, suburban and urban areas with one another. We just pack a much more powerful punch when that happens. Indiana, some may think it’s a small state, 6 and a half million people, but if you travel like I do, it is a big state that offers so much diversity.
We are, right now, through different state efforts and programs, be it the Main Street program or the Stellar Communities designation, are designed to help communities, rural communities, not just decide what they want their destiny to be, but to be determined about it and have a plan, and then execute that plan.
It’s just so encouraging to get out into these rural areas and when you get outside of the big cities, and I understand the lure of the big cities, but we want our regions to be vibrant, not just our cities to be vibrant.
Gregg: I live in a rural area, so I understand the challenges. It’s interesting. There are things we can do to improve the quality of life. It’s schools, it’s the amenities, it’s the infrastructure, it’s broadband.
In our 35 point economic plan, we talk about having incubators. We’ve got them at Fishers. We’ve got them in Indianapolis. We’ve got them in Broad Ripple. You know, we need one in Vincennes. We need one in Loogootee. You know, we need one in Garrett, Indiana. What can we do there to attract some of these people who have left to come back?
So it’s retain the young we have, and attract more there. Our business development plan talks about what we can do to help small businesses. Fascinatingly, this millennial generation is filled with this entrepreneurial spirit, and they can work about anywhere with broadband. And I think we need to realize that. That’s why getting that is so critical, and then focusing our attention in about five key areas. One of them is agribusiness, but also 21st century logistics, and the other three areas, two of them can be anywhere.
One of them is I.T. Same with the bio and life sciences. Those places can be in other places. Advanced manufacturing is a little more of a challenge, but it can be done. So it’s focusing on the type of job, and doing everything we can to get those quality of life amenities in a rural area.
Electric Consumer: Broadband is one of the foremost issues facing rural communities served by Indiana electric cooperatives. Do you consider internet access to be an essential utility, and, if so, what steps can Indiana leaders take to increase broadband access?
Gregg: I do believe it is as essential as electricity and as phone service, and to argue otherwise is wrong. Whenever I say this, I always get called by some of the big providers saying it’s not economically feasible, and not this or that. The truth of the matter is it probably wasn’t economically feasible to run electricity everywhere, or to run telephone lines everywhere, but we realized it was a necessity of life. This is a necessity in life. It’s for business. It’s for education. It’s for health.
We’ve got a plan to help communities do it. There are a lot of options. There’s federal, state and local dollars. We constantly leave federal dollars on the table in Indiana in a wide variety of areas: education, workforce development, health and safety.
Hoosiers have this idea if this money’s from Washington it’s either bad or it’s not ours. I mean hell’s fire, I’ve got that four-letter word — FICA — on my check just like you do. Those tax dollars are ours. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. “Oh, we don’t want to take the money because it’s from Barack Obama.” I don’t care if it’s from Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, George Bush. It’s our money, and we need to take it. So we’re going to do one thing here that I did when we were at V.U. [Vincennes University]: we started a coordinator to work on writing grants. We want someone in the governor’s office to do nothing but be working with all of the agencies to find out what type of federal dollars are there and for us to go after them. I meet people all the time from agencies, and they say, “There’s this federal program out here, and we want to check into it. But they tell us, ‘No.’” We at least ought to check into it and have a conversation.
We talk about the same thing with the philanthropic community. There is so much philanthropy going on in this country. Pre-kindergarten is being made possible in Marion County because of the philanthropic community. They are paying a third of the costs for thousands of kids. So, there’s those things.
Our goal is to get a plan in place to get that 14 percent [with no broadband access] covered, and we’d love to get them covered the first term.
You can live in the country, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to be isolated. I like living in the country, and I like not having neighbors nearby, and I like being able to see the bright stars at night, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be able to get hold of somebody or conduct business in a timely fashion.
So, we’ve got a plan. We’re going to pursue federal money. We’re going to work with the people in Indiana to do it. There are a lot of REMCs. There are a lot of small telephone companies pushing it. The key is, the key is to get this service to the people. It is absolutely essential. I mean we can’t function without it. It’s just like water, lights.
Holcomb: Yes, in a word. Connection, in general, is key. This is another one of those examples of all-hands-on-deck. We need to make sure that our rural communities are being connected to the world, both in access and in speed, which is often overlooked, because you can have access but not the speed to conduct business to compete, and so it puts you at a disadvantage. Governor Pence has a proposal out right now that’s working its way through the process that would offer yet another advancement on this front, and so I look forward to those discussions in an upcoming session. But there are some federal opportunities for rural buildout, and certainly the private sector has to step up and continue to do its part.
Indiana could be a real leader. This is one of those opportunities to not just invest the billions of dollars that is being done, but to take it to that next level and say, “If you want to start a business in Indiana, you can do it anywhere in Indiana.” And so this will be a high priority with me.
Electric Consumer: If the Clean Power Plan is upheld by the courts would you favor creating a state implementation plan, or would you take a different approach in order to comply?
Holcomb: I’m pretty passionate about this one. The current administration is using the EPA almost as a weapon to carry out their ideology. I hope that the court overturns this recent decision to double CO2 reductions. I think that was just an attempt by the administration to put another nail in coal’s coffin, and I couldn’t disagree with them any more. Having said that, yes, I want to make sure that if the court doesn’t overturn, and we’re just one of the many states, a majority, quite frankly, of states that are fighting this.
So, it’s not just Indiana who believes there’s been overreach here by Washington, and by the way, this is an example of elections have consequences. And as bad as I believe this administration has been on this front, this next presidential election will have consequences, too. And if you’re supporting Hillary Clinton, she has not just echoed President Obama’s direction, but she’s doubled down on it, which I think could be further harmful to the state of Indiana.
I think the state has to be involved, has to have an implementation plan that gives flexibility to our providers. I’m skeptical of how much flexibility the federal government will give us, or allow us. It’s going to be a battle every day unless we get reasonable, rational folks in the White House.
Gregg: I absolutely would. I’ve always said that I would support a state plan, and if I had been governor, rather than sue, I would have used my background. Rather than filing suit, I would have done like the major coal producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia did where they brought all the parties together: the consumers, the environmentalist, the coal producers, the electrical generators, the big consumers and the manufacturers and the industrial consumers. Brought them together to figure out how they could implement it [the Clean Power plan], and get to that goal, but not “boom” like that.
Litigation sounds really good, but I learned about my first week in law school many, many 35 years ago, that if you’re a state suing the federal government, you’ll ultimately lose.
What really bothers me on this, when we’re talking down in the coal area where I’m from, those statistics — when they say 400 people are being laid off in a mine — these are people that I grew up with. I’ve got cousins that are coal miners, family members. One of my brothers worked for Peabody, and I worked for AMAX. These are faces. These are people I go to church with. But it’s just not them.
Then it’s the power plants. I live within seven miles of Edwardsport. I can see from my high school the Merom smokestack. It’s the people that work in those power plants, and you know what good jobs those are.
Then it goes to the next step. Rolls Royce right over here. Chrysler, Kokomo, you know, steel down on the river. You know, Crawfordsville. All across the northern part of the state from Gary all the way to Fort Wayne. I mean we’ve gone from being what fifth, sixth or seventh in low cost rates up into the low 20s, and it’s how it affects our manufacturing base.
I always like to remind people who say, “No. We’ve got to let that [coal] drop, and we’ve got to just switch [to alternative power sources] tomorrow,” this has a big, big impact on Indiana.
Electric Consumer: Indiana’s electric cooperatives are voluntarily diversifying their generation portfolios to include more alternative energy sources. Should the state play a role in mandating how Indiana’s electric cooperatives and other electricity providers in the state add renewable energy?
Gregg: We need to be a leader here, but I’m not sure we need regulation for regulation’s sake. All you have to do is drive around the countryside now and you see more turbines. You see more solar panels. There’s more natural gas being converted. So I think it’s happening. As we are making that switch in those areas, since we are a manufacturing state, I want to know why we’re not manufacturing the solar panels. I wonder why we’re not manufacturing those aluminum blades on the turbines, or the steel that holds it up in the middle, or that giant magneto that’s on the inside like a fan.
We’re a manufacturing state. Why is this being shipped here from China? It’s going around South America, going up the coast, coming down the St. Lawrence Seaway, unloaded at Burns Harbor, and then driven into the Northern and Central Indiana. Like duh?
Why aren’t we doing these? Those are things that are going to help if we do have loss in some of these other good paying jobs like mining, or as technology gets better and more improved, takes fewer and fewer people to operate a coal fired facility, or any type of power generation facility. These are ways you replace those good jobs. With other good jobs. Not replace them with $10 an hour jobs at the Dollar General Store. I’m glad they’re there, but I’d rather replace a good paying job with a good paying job.
Holcomb: In a word, no. I don’t favor mandating how providers are seeking to give customers safe, affordable electricity. The very fact that cooperatives and other providers are doing this on your own, right now, proves my point that the providers are the best equipped to follow the market forces and determine the best way to provide that safe and affordable delivery.
Electric Consumer: A multitude of factors have challenged electricity providers’ ability to maintain affordable electricity rates. How do you plan to keep electricity safe, affordable and reliable?
Holcomb: I want to make sure that all state agencies come at this from the position of how do we foster, not hamper, the industry, in delivering safe and affordable electricity. We need to make sure that, as a state, we are recognizing the market forces, for sure, but the message needs to be clear. And again, elections have consequences. We need to be clear that the state government agencies are there to foster and not hamper your business.
Gregg: It’s an all-of-the-above policy, so it’s got to be coal, it’s got to be natural gas, it’s got to be solar, it’s got to be wind. We, we’ve got to keep the smorgasbord out there.
I think the most important thing is and I think we’re slowly, much too slowly moving toward this, but it’s the energy independence of our nation. Energy independence is critical to our security, but it’s also critical to our economy, and, we’re seeing a lot more natural gas produced in the United States and I think that’s really helpful. One of the things we want to work on that Indiana does not have is an energy policy.
Electric Consumer: Indiana has a large rainy day fund of approximately $2 billion. What do you think is the best use of that money?
Gregg: I’m well familiar with that surplus, and, like you, Doc Bowen called it “a rainy day fund,” and that’s what I like to call it. I helped build part of that when I was speaker many years ago. By statute, it was set at about $465 million. I can’t tell you if we need that $2.4 billion, but here’s what I can tell you.
In 2001, we had moved it up to about $1.2 billion, and 9/11 hit — the attack in Pennsylvania, and on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I remember Gov. [Frank] O’Bannon having in the caucus leaders and the fiscal leaders because a big source of Indiana’s revenue is sales tax. If you remember, the airports were shut down for four days, everything just stopped, and [sales] just nosedived.
We were faced with a situation. Do we start cutting highway projects? Do we shut down some schools? Do we layoff some state policemen? What about some of these essential services?
I can remember Frank saying we created this rainy day fund, and it’s up to $1.2 billion. We didn’t want to see the government cut any essential services. So, we spent down to about $500 million. Contrary to what the television ads tell you, we never deficit spent. We were never broke. We still had more than the statutory balance in the rainy day fund. So, we do need money in there. I can tell you in my experience, we need at least $700 million, and I think it’s fair to say in this day and age we probably need more than that.
It’s worth pointing out, when it’s gone, it’s gone. So I’m not for just going in and spending it because we’ve got it. But I do think we need to acknowledge that we built that surplus up at an expense to our communities, our schools, and our state’s infrastructure.
Our state’s infrastructure is just really crap. It just is. One in five bridges is going to be obsolete. The biggest laugh the other night in the debate was when my opponent said that statistics show that Indiana is one of the four best states with highways. And came time to me, and I said, “I don’t know what highways they’re driving.” The place erupted in laughter.
You know, every state agency still reverts 10 percent to the budget. So when the legislature says, “You get $100 million, you get $40 million, you get $20 [million], 10 percent is going back, you don’t even need to spend it.”
We mentioned in our public safety plan that we’re not going to have the law enforcement arm of state government revert money. The State Police have one helicopter. It’s not flown in six months, and it’s in Kentucky getting worked on. Six months.
We run 45 state troopers a year through our state training process. We have 43, on the average now, have left us for the last five years — not to retire, but they go to other departments where they get paid more. So, we’re spending $2.8 million dollars a year to train 45 new troopers, and all we’re doing is keeping even. They’re driving cars with 165,000 miles or more.
I’m glad we’ve got the surplus but at what expense? We’ve got a surplus, but it’s just like my home: My roof leaks, I fix it. Our roof’s leaking.
Our triple-A credit rating is, in part, because we’re a low-debt state. We paid off our bills. We pay our bills on time now. We’re not delaying payments to local schools and governments like we were before 2005, telling locals, “We’ll pay you when we can, but we can’t now, you figure it out.”
All three major bond raters have said Indiana has a triple-A credit rating. We cannot get a higher credit rating. I just wish the Federal government could say half as much.
So, we need to absolutely maintain that savings account for those truly tough days.
If we go through another national recession like 2008-2009, you need to have a rainy-day fund at the ready so that we’re best equipped to weather that storm, that folks, when they’re still conducting business, say, “I have to go to the safest place in the country, and Indiana is the safest place.” So that really keeps us on everyone’s radar, and so we should not, as we did in the past, blow through our surplus, or our savings account, unless we’re truly going through tough times.
And we proved we could go through those tough times, by the way, and still live within our means, which is what made us so attractive to continue to come out of that recession. Indiana, this manufacturing-intensive state, for us to come out of it like we did, is remarkable, and it’s got a lot to do with our fiscal stewardship. So I absolutely guard and protect that savings account, because it directly affects our credit ratings and saves us money in the long run and attracts more.
Electric Consumer: What one state or federal political leader over the past hundred years has had the most significant, positive impact on Indiana, and why?
Holcomb: Well, I’m a little biased here. I spent 10 years working for our former governor, in one capacity or another, Mitch Daniels. Worked for him for 16 months while he was running, and then in one way or another in both of his terms as governor. Deputy Chief of Staff, and his campaign manager, so I was inside and outside of the official office, but, involved in so many of the reform efforts that I just know turned this state around. And it’s just Exhibit A and B, before and after.
I went so far as to even write a book about it. And, learned a lot of valuable lessons in the work, and being in the trenches, and reaching out to folks of all different stripes and saying, “If we can agree on this, we don’t have to agree on 10 things, but if we can agree on this project, can we work together? Because we’re willing to.”
It was because of that that we really were able to turn the state around and get us pointed in the right direction. So I would say, former governor, now president of Purdue, Mitchell Elias Daniels Jr., would be my number one influence.
Gregg: There have been a ton of them. I could start rattling off vice presidents. I could start rattling off national figures and governors that were on the cutting edge like Paul McNutt, George Craig. But one person that comes to mind — and it’s hard to judge history … so more in my lifetime — U.S. Senator Birch Bayh. And here’s why.
He authored two amendments to our Constitution. One was on the presidential succession, because it really was never specified that the vice president took over. That was an issue with Indiana’s own William Henry Harrison. He died in 1841, and Tyler took over, but [Bayh’s amendment] spelled that out and then who after him, the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State. And then the other amendment was the 18 year old vote.
I voted for the first time when I was 18 in 1972. Sadly, if you look at statistics, 18-to-25-year-olds really haven’t ever gotten much more engaged than with that first election.
Electric Consumer: Last question is the fun one: Which Indiana-centric sports movie best represents your campaign — ”Hoosiers,” “Rudy” or “Breaking Away,” and why?
Gregg: I do have to tell you, I have met Sean Astin who played Rudy and played in all the Hobbit movies. But it wouldn’t be “Rudy” — at all. And I’m an IU graduate, so that Little Five had something … but it would have to be “Hoosiers.”
I’m from a small town. If you walk into Sandborn’s Community Center today, painted on one whole side of the wall, it says “Sandborn Blue Jays,” and there’s a big blue jay, and it says “Sectional Champs 1957.” Only won it one time, but, buddy, it’s right there, and I get goosebumps just thinking about that. After we consolidated, my alma mater, North Knox, when we still had one-class basketball, only won one sectional.
But you know what? You always had the chance. You might have been the next Milan. Whenever you had that good team, it was about hopes; it was about dreams; and it was about killing the giant, and you could do it.
So, it’s “Hoosiers” 110 percent. We’re fighting the giant now. You’re a Democrat in Indiana, fighting the Republican Party, trying to get people to look beyond the party labels, so, it’s “Hoosiers.”
Holcomb: I love this question. And I mentioned this in one of our recent forums with my two opponents. But I would add one more Hoosier movie. I went to Hanover College, on the Ohio River, and there’s a movie called “Madison.”
I said at this forum, “I don’t always agree with Hollywood, but I do think Hollywood’s got it about right when it comes to the movies that they make about Indiana.”
It’s this notion that if you play by the rules and you work hard, you can punch above your weight class. David can not just fight with but can slay Goliath. All these movies point in that direction. I have a Cutters T-shirt, so you might think I lean to “Breaking Away,” but I would say “Hoosiers,” for sure.
I had two major influences all my life. One was playing basketball and the other was the Navy. Both underscore the importance of teamwork.
The players that are accented in Hoosiers, and the coach, and the town, all have this huge impact on the ultimate success of this ‘54 Milan Miracle that happened. And, so I think the theme of teamwork, and everyone’s role is just as important. You know, Bobby Plump had the last shot, but there was a pick set, and, you know, no one “could get caught watching the paint dry.” We can all repeat every line, I’m sure. It’s just that’s what I think turned this state around, and if those lessons could be applied, and they have been, but if they could be applied every day in our Statehouse, we would find out that we all have a role. And, I’m certainly excited about my potential role next year.
Indiana’s electric cooperatives ask that you arm yourself with knowledge of the issues and candidates, and, no matter who you then support, please exercise your right to vote Nov. 8.