2019 closed strong despite ‘distractions’
Despite the political distractions in Washington over the last few months, we had a very strong close to 2019. In the last week, we raised the smoking and vaping age of purchase to 21, came to an agreement on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, permanently repealed the Medical Device Tax and gave our troops the biggest pay raise in a decade.
In 2020, the political environment will get even crazier. Most observers don’t expect much to get done in a presidential election year, but Hoosiers want Congress to act to keep the economy moving and protect our values.
President Trump struck a deal with Canada and Mexico on USMCA — the agreement to replace NAFTA — in 2018. For more than a year, Nancy Pelosi dragged her feet on approving this deal, leaving Indiana businesses and farm country in undeserved limbo. Blessedly, the deal has finally been approved. Hoosier farmers and manufacturers export $18.8 billion a year to Canada and Mexico, and it is vital that these markets remain open.
The president has also made progress in negotiations with China by announcing a Phase One Deal, and I hope to see these talks continue and solidify into change. In the meantime, we need to continue pursuing deals with Japan, the European Union and the UK so that American workers who grow and build products for the world do not suffer.
Since 2017, the Senate has confirmed a record number of judges to the federal bench. These impartial judges, including five right here in Indiana, are committed to interpreting the Constitution as written and not legislating from the bench.
But, there’s more to do. A new opening has emerged in South Bend on Indiana’s Northern District Court. Sen. Mike Braun and I are vetting applicants and hope to have that seat filled this year.
Additionally, Indiana’s Southern District Court remains in a judicial emergency, with one of the highest caseloads in the nation. The time has come to add additional judges to that court.
Raising the age of purchase for tobacco products was a big step in protecting our young people and reducing the onset of costly health conditions, but Congress failed this year to address other drivers of high health care costs, including surprise billing and prescription drugs.
I’ve heard from several constituents about the harm caused by surprise billing, when you happen to be treated by an out-of-network doctor even though you go to an in-network hospital. We need to make it safe to go to your mailbox again, and that means eliminating these surprise bills.
We also need to work to lower the costs of prescription drugs that give families the unenviable choice of buying medicine or paying bills.
In many cities around Indiana, including South Bend, which has the nation’s 18th-highest eviction rate, housing affordability is an ongoing challenge.
In this growing economy, many employers find a lack of affordable housing in their area is a barrier to filling open positions. When a family spends too much on housing, it has negative effects, including worse health and education outcomes.
In 2020, I hope to continue making progress toward ending the housing affordability crisis and empowering families with young children to relocate to higher opportunity areas.
The high cost of college and other post-secondary training and education continues to be among the biggest concerns for Hoosier families. While many on the left want to put taxpayers on the hook with free college, I’m drawn to more innovative, free-market solutions.
One answer is Income Share Agreements. By allowing investors to pay for a student’s college in exchange for a small share of future earnings, ISAs provide a debt-free education, shift the risk on non-completion to investors, and don’t force students to pay high interest rates.
These agreements are already being used at several coding academies, like Kenzie Academy in Indianapolis, and forward-thinking universities like Purdue. Legislation I have offered will help expand the use of ISAs while putting protections in place for students.
With the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years and wages rising, 2019 was a banner year for American workers. In 2020, I believe we can build on that momentum and act to reduce the cost of living so that Hoosiers can keep more of their hard-earned income.