BROWNSBURG — With the waning moments of the 2012 election season growing thin, Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg’s running mate, Rep. Vi Simpson made a stop here to discuss her plans as lieutenant governor should Gregg defeat Rep. candidate Mike Pence.
Simpson stopped off at Pit Stop Barbecue in town on a bus tour to greet supporters and meet those who might not know much about her campaign. She was very pointed in her aspirations, saying that rural development, infrastructure, and education highlight her goals should she enter office.
“One of the things I learned when I started running are the opportunities internationally for exports for not just the raw goods that we grow here, but food processing for instance, and byproducts of some of the agricultural products that we grow here,” she said, noting that agriculture is an evolving industry that will change with the times. “For instance, the Chinese are building these new communities from scratch from the ground up and moving people to those communities and building industries around them, and those folks need processed food. They don’t want raw materials anymore.
“There’s also a huge movement toward people knowing where their food comes from. They want to buy direct,” added Simpson, saying that we need to, as a state, support the agricultural research at schools like Purdue University as much as possible. “There are great ways to connect farmers and food producers with consumers directly. We just have to be creative and think outside the box.”
Simpson noted that as part of an aggressive plan, she and Gregg have committed to increase Indiana’s agricultural exports by 50 percent, saying that she believes it can be done, especially internationally through growing countries.
She then took direct aim at her opponents regarding education, saying that her plan is to buy back into the public school system, increase kindergarten length, and remove standardized testing to get teachers back to doing what they do best.
“All four of us have voting records. Congressman Pence has voted against education funding. He’s voted against Pell Grants for low income students to go to college, and has said that he thinks our public schools are funded sufficiently. How he’s going to get the money to expand career and technical education, I have no idea.
“Over the last four years, the legislator and the executive have cut funding to public education by about $900 million, $600 million of that to our public schools, and that’s got to stop,” she said. “We can’t have economic investment in the future if we don’t commit to having a great public school system. I’m afraid we’re sacrificing our public schools in favor of vouchers and privatizing our school system and that’s not the way this country was built. Public education is the open door to the middle class.”
She opined that there was “buyers remorse” regarding charter schools being a better way to approach education and that the current system creates an opportunity gap.
“If we keep stealing money for private schools and takeovers by private corporations, we’re going to build a two tier system where the haves and the have nots have two different paths to become educated, and that doesn’t serve the interests of society very well.”
Simpson said that “you can’t just talk about education, because it’s very labor intensive. You have to be willing to commit resources,” noting that her direct opponent for the Lt. Gov. position, Sue Ellspermann also voted for the education budget cuts.
She said that she ideally wants to bring superintendents and administrators back to the table in deciding where improvements need to be made rather than take a top down approach that she feels handcuffs teachers from doing what they do best.
“Look at my voting record. You’ll see that I have supported public education.”
Lastly, Simpson tried to dispel myths behind the most nationally talked about narrative over the past four years, the Affordable Care Act saying that it would be a mistake for the state to not participate as it would force Hoosiers to be on the federal plan rather than grow their own.
“If we participate as a state, we can create an exchange, a cafeteria of plans that people can buy their health insurance. We can make sure that exchange is meeting the needs of Indiana people. If we choose to not participate, what happens is, all Hoosiers get dumped on the federal exchange and we’ll have no input,” said Simpson, who noted that the Pence campaign wants to not participate.
“There are wonderful things in the ACA that people don’t know about because people want to use the anti-Obamacare rhetoric for political expediency purposes and so they’re trying to scare people about tax increases. The fact is, we’re paying for everyone’s health care now, even those people who are uninsured. We’re paying for it in the most expensive, least cost effective way because people who are uninsured, they wait until they’re sick, go to the emergency room, and the emergency room must under federal law take care of them. The cost of that is shifted to those of us who have health insurance. All of us are paying about $2,000 more for our own health insurance in order to cover the shifting cost of those who are uninsured.”
She did say that there are parts of it that she would change, and that the individual mandate is what she hears the most reservation about, but says that the changes can be made. She fully supports health care for everyone and backs that up with her past, where she authored the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) to make sure all Indiana children have health coverage.
“It’s those thousands of people who are working, but they work for employers that don’t offer health insurance or the health insurance is too expensive so they can’t buy it. So what do we do with those people? It’s a moral issue in my opinion, and a financial one.”
She noted that the ACA being accepted in the state will allow thousands upon thousands to receive coverage that previously couldn’t because of preexisting conditions, allow more young people up to the age of 26 to be on their parents’ plans, and help senior citizens obtain prescription drugs who previously fell into a “donut hole” in the past.