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Thompson picks up pace in gubernatorial campaign

August 27, 2008
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson has kicked her campaign into high gear recently, putting pressure on the well-oiled campaign of incumbent Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Daniels, who has been airing political commercials on local TV for several weeks, touting all his administration has done for working Hoosiers, is now being challenged on the issues that are the highlights of his campaign.

In a telephone interview last week, Long Thompson blasted Daniels on several issues, including rising unemployment in the state, taxes and the privatizing of government services.

"On my very first day as governor, I'll put a stop to hiring people from outside the state," Long Thompson said. "We don't need to hire people to do what Hoosiers can do. And this is not being sentimental. It's just good business."

Long Thompson also responded to the recent layoff of several hundred employees from Delphi Corporation in Kokomo.

"Sadly, Kokomo joins a growing list of communities that have fallen victim to the Bush-Daniels economy," she said. "It is time for new leadership that will fight to grow our economy and protect good-paying jobs all over the state."

Claims by the Daniels campaign that the administration created over 22,000 new jobs in Indiana was brought into question recently by Indiana Democratic Communications Director Thomas Cook who said that, even with some new job additions, nearly 44,000 Hoosiers have become unemployed over the last year.

"Indiana's economy is clearly struggling and Hoosier families are hurting," Long Thompson said. "Yet, this administration keeps telling us all is well."

According to the latest numbers released by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana ranked near the top among all 50 states in an increase in unemployment from June to July. The same report found 17,800 fewer Hoosiers were employed during the same time frame. In a recent press release, Long Thompson insisted that, as governor, she would overhaul Indiana's tax structure and place incentives into law to reward businesses that create good-paying jobs, offer health benefits and invest in green, clean technology. She also indicated that she would target state economic development dollars to struggling communities, allow individuals and small businesses to pool together to buy health insurance, increase vocational education options and bring Broadband capacity to all counties.

"One of the largest impediments to job growth in Indiana is the cost of health care," Long Thompson said. "All too often employers, both large and small, are being forced to choose between hiring more employees or staying open and keeping up with the rising cost of health insurance premiums. This is a choice they should never have to make."

Long Thompson added that, of the 90,000 small businesses in Indiana, only 34 percent are able to offer their employees insurance.

But a major focus of the Long Thompson campaign is the opposition to Daniels' program of privatizing government services. Early in his administration, Daniels was responsible for signing a deal with two foreign companies to lease a major toll road in the northern part of the state. The contract turned the road over to the companies for 75 years. In similar deals, Daniels contracted the operation of the state's social services, that includes food stamp distribution and Medicaid, to IBM and other companies, including Affiliated Computer Services Inc.

At a meeting in New Albany last week, set up to assist Hoosiers who have had problems with the new system, officials of the agency that runs the program got an ear full from people who have encountered difficulties with eligibility requirements, long waits getting through on the phone lines and delays in benefits. Several complained about benefits being cut off entirely. Officials told the audience at the meeting that they are trying to make the program more user-friendly, but many of those present were skeptical. The system, which has been implemented for almost a year, has dropped many Hoosiers due to problems with documentation, creating a hardship on many families and local agencies who struggle to cope with the amount of requests for emergency services.

In 2005, Daniels approved a contract to privatize a state prison at New Castle. In April, a riot developed at the prison and many believed that, due to cost-cutting efforts by the GEO Group, the Florida company that was hired to manage the prison, the facility was understaffed. Now, Daniels is looking at a proposal to lease the Hoosier Lottery to a private operator.

"These contracts are actually costing Hoosiers money," Long Thompson said. "Mitch Daniels' policies have short-changed taxpayers and compromised the safety and welfare of our citizens while the private companies that were awarded these contracts make huge profits off our tax dollars. I believe that money should stay right here in Indiana and, as governor, I will fight to make sure that finally happens."

Long Thompson is now calling for a complete review of the contracts that have been privatized or outsourced during the Daniels administration and has named Dennie Oxley II, the Democrat candidate for lieutenant governor, to head the panel that will examine the their effectiveness and cost savings.

"The panel, led by Dennie Oxley, will examine every contract," Long Thompson said. "We're not sure the state is saving any money with private contracts. I have an MBA and a Ph.D. in business. And with privatization, the contractor usually makes a profit by cutting services. And our toll road that has been leased, we'll have another 55 to 60 years of toll money going outside the country. The better approach would be better management of the toll road by Indiana."

"When Mitch Daniels first ran for governor four years ago, he promised to stop the practice of state government hiring contractors from other states and countries to do the work that Hoosiers could perform," Oxley said in a press release. "He also pledged to keep more of our tax dollars in Indiana. However, as governor, he has done exactly the opposite — privatizing and outsourcing billions of dollars in state government assets and services to foreign and out-of-state corporations.

"Gov. Daniels argues that privatization saves money and creates efficiencies — but to date, he has been unable to show us any proof. If fact, we all know his efforts have lead to dismal upkeep of state property, poor service, unnecessary denial of services, a riot at the New Castle Prison, and the federal government stepping in to halt the rollout of a privatized program. How is this better than before? How has any of this saved money or created new efficiencies?

"Like most Hoosiers, Jill and I think it is time to take another look at these contracts and the performance of these vendors. We will carefully scrutinize each of them to find ways that we can demand better service or cancel agreements that just don't make sense for Hoosier taxpayers."

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