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Sen. Tomes: Issues Emerging for the 2011 Session

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 5, 2011) - State Sen. Jim Tomes (R-Wadesville) said passing a balanced budget and avoiding tax hikes on hardworking Hoosiers should be the top priorities for lawmakers during the 2011 legislative session, which began today at the Statehouse.

"As a freshman lawmaker, I look forward to learning about a wide variety of issues this legislative session," Tomes said. "However, I already have goals in mind, including helping fellow legislators in setting tight spending limits while protecting funding for essentials like education and public safety."

Tomes said talk among constituents clearly indicates lawmakers should also focus on fostering job creation by private employers, improving schools by putting students first and protecting voters by promoting fair redistricting.

Here's a snapshot for some of this year's key issues, according to Tomes:

Balancing The Budget, Avoiding Tax Hikes: Legislators will be working to achieve what they hope will be a fourth consecutive balanced budget. Members of the Indiana General Assembly will be starting the budget-writing process with an approximate $500-$700 million gap to fill. This underscores the importance of having protected the $1.3 billion in rainy-day budget reserves during the last budget-writing session in 2009.

Fostering Job Growth, Cutting Red Tape: Indiana's tax structure is the most employer-friendly in the Great Lakes region and among the top 10 nationally. Tomes said state lawmakers this session must work to preserve and build on this foundation by keeping taxes low, encouraging access to capital and strengthening job-creation rewards for expanding employers. "I look forward to helping fellow legislators encourage investors to come to Indiana," Tomes said. "I am especially interested in fostering the growth of production and manufacturing jobs, which will strengthen our state's economy at a time when we need it most."

Improving Schools, Putting Students First:  Hoosiers have historically supported providing the most funding possible for education, but are today demanding the most education possible for that funding, Tomes said. "Concerned lawmakers, parents and educators will recommit this legislative session to further improving our schools by putting students first," Tomes added. "Such efforts include ensuring teacher quality, holding schools accountable and providing more options for families - especially those who feel trapped by chronically failing schools."

Protecting Voters, Promoting Fair Redistricting: Indiana's Constitution specifically charges the Indiana General Assembly with drawing new legislative and Congressional districts after each national census, so representation is apportioned fairly. Republican senators last year attempted to put into law objective guidelines that would have, whenever practical, preserved traditional neighborhoods and local communities of interest, protected minority voting rights, created simply shaped, compact districts and respected county and precinct lines. "We intend to adhere to these same guiding principles this session because Hoosiers deserve the creation of fair districts," Tomes said.

Tomes invites constituents to give further feedback on these and other issues by completing this year's legislative survey, now available at www.in.gov/Senator.Tomes.

Tomes said constituents are invited to keep in touch during the session - which runs through Friday, April 29 - by e-mail at Senator.Tomes@iga.in.gov, by toll-free call at 800-382-9467 or by mail at Sen. Jim Tomes, Indiana State Senate, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.

Sen. Jim Tomes

Sen. Tomes represents Senate District 49, which includes portions of Gibson, Posey and Vanderburgh counties.