Lawmakers Advance Workforce Bills As Session's First Half Ends

Feb 7, 2018

House and Senate lawmakers waited until the final day of the session’s halfway point to advance their top priority for 2018: workforce development measures.

Bills in both chambers make dozens of changes to the state’s workforce development and career education system. Those include the creation of new career counselors in job centers throughout the state. Lawmakers want to create a state Secretary of Workforce Training and a board of Technical Education. And they hope to consolidate workforce dollars, which are currently spread across 30 programs in nine different agencies.

The measures also aim to significantly increase reimbursement of private companies for job training and education, which Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) says is the wrong step.

“This gets back down to what we call corporate welfare. It’s throwing money at businesses for things that they used to pay for themselves,” Dvorak says.

But House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says it’s not a handout.

“Should we assist employers in this important issue, because it’s also assisting Hoosiers – not just the employers but Hoosiers? I think we should,” Bosma says.

One provision attracting significant attention comes from the House bill. It would dedicate every penny collected in state corporate income taxes and devote them all to workforce training. House Minority Leader Terry Goodin (D-Austin) says that’s a step too far.

“You’re taking all the dollars that these corporations pay into the kitty and now you’re returning that money back to those corporations to do something that they should already be doing,” Goodin says.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says a key to workforce training will be finding a balance between the state and private companies.

“I don’t think that we should hand over all of our training to the private sector and pay them to do it,” Long says. “There is a role they have to play in this but we can help and enhance that and need to do that in order to make sure we can fill our needs.”

Long says he’s not sold on dedicating an entire tax revenue stream for one purpose. Republican leaders say there are still many details to work out before the end of session.