As the holiday season comes to a close, it's important to reflect on a year gone by but also to set new goals for 2014. The next legislative session is just a few days away, and this year I have several wishes for Indiana.
Hoosiers can be proud that Indiana's fourth- and eighth-grade students demonstrated the second-largest improvement rate among states last year on math and reading tests. In the coming year, I hope to continue this momentum.
One of our state's most important goals is to advance a world-class, top-performing school system that adequately prepares our youth for the future. Improving jobs and vocational training is a key factor in achieving this goal.
The Indiana Career Council, which the General Assembly created last year, has been working diligently over the summer and fall months to facilitate communication between employers and educators so that students gain marketable, 21st-century skills. I look forward to the council's recommendations, and to continue supporting innovation in our schools.
I hope 2014 will be a record year in job growth. In November, Indiana gained 25,300 private sector jobs – the largest one-month increase in our state's recorded history. With new tax cuts and economic development initiatives taking root, I expect this trend to continue.
Employers large and small are recognizing Indiana as a great state in which to do business. Since January of 2005, 1,706 businesses have projected to create 188,085 jobs and invest $36.6 billion in their Indiana operations. Next legislative session, lawmakers will continue to encourage this type of investment so that Hoosiers have access to more stable, well-paying jobs in 2014 and beyond.
Alongside job creation, my wish for Indiana is to secure its reputation as the Crossroads of America by improving roads and bridges.
In the most recent budget, my colleagues and I in the legislature increased road and infrastructure funding by $200 million per year and set aside another $400 million for future transportation needs. Through this effort, Allen County received an increase of more than $8 million for local infrastructure projects over the next two years and the City of Fort Wayne received an increase of $2 million in infrastructure funding.
The ability to transport goods and services quickly and easily gives companies one more reason to invest in our local communities. Better roads mean more jobs for hardworking Hoosiers.
Another wish for Indiana in 2014 is to create a stronger support system for returning veterans. The unemployment rate among veterans remains far too high, and we must do everything possible to ensure a high quality of life for the service men and women who dedicate their lives to defending our freedoms.
Making sure veterans earn college credit for skills obtained in the military is one way to help them succeed after service.
The Indiana General Assembly has a long-standing tradition of bipartisanship and good will. My final wish is that the next legislative session embodies these values as we work together to build a stronger Indiana.