Senate District 44 candidates lay out priorities

Education funding, a long-term infrastructure plan and a broader discussion about drugs are some of the top priorities of Indiana Senate District 44 candidates.

Republican Eric Koch, Democrat Linda Henderson and Libertarian Darin Kinser, all of Bedford, are seeking the senate seat that covers Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Lawrence and Monroe counties.

Koch has been serving since 2002 in the Indiana House of Representatives, representing House District 65.

His priorities include getting adequate funding for K-12 education and public safety, establishing a long-term infrastructure plan that includes local needs, and addressing the impact of public and tax-exempt land on the local tax base.

Koch touts legislation passed in the General Assembly that provided $1 billion in new state and local road, bridge funding for the next years “with no state tax increases or debt.”

Henderson said she supports Democrat candidate for governor John Gregg’s plan to establish a long-term, dedicated funding source to improve state and local roads and bridges.

Henderson said she plans to reach across the aisle to address challenges families face, such as education, jobs and roads. Education is her top priority, and she plans to advocate for strong public schools, funding for preschool, expanding workforce training programs and getting support for teachers.

Henderson also wants to address the heroin/meth epidemic with a multifaceted approach. Mental health and treatment services need to be considered, as well as “reaching kids long before they get to 12 years old to make an impact,” she said.

Kinser, a small business owner, believes legalizing medical marijuana will lead to an increase in revenue for the state. That would provide funding for items like education and infrastructure, and pain relief to those in need, he said.

“If you look at Colorado, you look at Washington, they’re bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from it,” he said.

“We’re supposed to be able to offer the No. 1 best health care we could possibly give somebody. We have a drug that will make a difference in everyone’s life when it comes to pain. They’re refusing to do that here in Indiana.”

Henderson said she’s against the expansion of the school voucher system in Indiana. She said its impact needs to be assessed.

“I do not like taking dollars away from public education to support private endeavors. We have a responsibility to our public schools and teachers to see that they are adequately funded and supported,” she said.

Koch believes that the voucher system should be monitored and public schools should be given more freedom to allow them to be innovative so there can be a level playing field.

He says children using vouchers in other school districts are actually beneficial for local public schools, since voucher students cost the state only 90 percent or 50 percent of the amount that would otherwise go to the home public school. Koch said voucher use leaves more money in the state fund and “drives up per-student funding for all other schools.”

Kinser said he supports vouchers and is not in favor of public schools. He believes some schools can’t offer certain help to some students and families need the option to choose a school that fits their child’s needs best.

“I have been in favor of charter schools and expansion of vouchers in Indiana since day one. I will always continue to support vouchers because I believe in the free market and I believe in competition,” he said.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.