Brian Slodysko, writing for the Associated Press, has an article entitled “Lawmakers Bail out Pence with $5.5 million for Bicentennial Projects” (h/t Indy Democrat Blog). According to the Slodysko article:
Indiana lawmakers are bailing out the state’s former governor, Vice President Mike Pence, after the Republican’s efforts to pay for two completed projects celebrating the state’s bicentennial foundered.
A provision tucked into the state’s next two-year budget, which was approved late last month by the GOP-dominated Legislature, sets aside $5.5 million to pay for an elaborate plaza constructed outside the Statehouse in Indianapolis and upgrades to the state library.
“They did the work, so somebody had to pay for it,” said Republican Sen. Luke Kenley, of Noblesville, who is one of the state’s lead budget writers.
Indiana’s Centennial featured, among other things, the development of a State Park system that has improved the lives of Hoosiers for the last century. At the time, Indiana was very proud (with some justification) of the state it had become and wanted to use its centennial to show off.
Our approach to the bicentennial suggests something of a sophomore slump. Ideological opposition to funding government operations or, really, to having a positive vision of what government can achieve was probably always going to result in an indifferent approach to bicentennial projects. In 2015, Sen. Kenley apparently questioned “if we could afford a bicentennial.” Pence suggested that we’d pay for projects by “leasing out 340 state-owned cellphone towers through a public-private partnership.” (Not quite that strength which in old days taunted rivals to “look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”)
So, we begrudgingly pay for a plaza and some upgrades to the library. It appears unlikely that other anticipated projects such as a new state archives building or an inn at northern Indiana’s Potato Creek State Park will get built any time soon. In our first century, we carved an impressive state out of the wilderness. Now, we act like we have to dig for change under the couch cushions to prevent our highways from crumbling.