Perhaps it's hard to believe, but election season is over and the start of Indiana's 2013 legislative session is just around the corner. Next Tuesday, November 20, my fellow lawmakers and I will meet at the Statehouse for Organization Day — the ceremonial start of the 118th Indiana General Assembly's first session.
Organization Day is marked by the swearing in of new General Assembly members and the first roll call of all state lawmakers. This day also provides each House and Senate caucus with the opportunity to organize before session officially begins on January 7.
I was humbled and honored last Wednesday to be re-elected by my colleagues as Senate President Pro Tempore. I look forward to another year leading the Senate and advancing the issues most important to Hoosiers in our community and across the state.
It's certain to be another noteworthy year for the Indiana legislature. Lawmakers from the House and Senate will soon begin work drafting a comprehensive budget proposal to fund essential state services for the next two years. Among my highest priorities during this process is to continue our track record of fiscal responsibility. I'm confident we will pass Indiana's fifth-consecutive balanced budget this year.
While other states and our federal government continue to overspend and operate in the red, Indiana's commitment to living within its means and making every tax dollar count has made us a shining example of fiscal solvency. You can be sure lawmakers will work hard this session to preserve Indiana's sound financial footing and make the tough yet necessary decisions to keep our books balanced.
Of course, the flip side of responsible state spending is a responsible tax system. In the next session, Indiana will continue to pursue policies that foster job growth and fuel a strong economy. Following the recession, Indiana has been able to add private-sector jobs at an impressive rate. Since July 2009 – our state's low point of employment during the recession – Indiana's private-sector job growth has outpaced the nation nearly two-fold, 6.3 percent to 3.5 percent. In 2012 alone, the Hoosier state has added more than 57,000 private-sector jobs, a growth rate much better than the national average.
Alongside a balanced budget and stable tax environment, Indiana must have the highly skilled workforce and modern infrastructure required to attract and support 21st-century jobs.
Lawmakers and educators will strive this session to maintain Indiana's status as a national leader in education by promoting college-preparatory and vocational opportunities in our schools; expanding high-quality education options for students and families; and working to ensure college is more affordable for every Hoosier who wishes to pursue a post-secondary degree. With these goals, Indiana is laying the groundwork for a future workforce with the skills necessary to grow our state's economy and succeed in an increasingly competitive world.