Indiana Welcomes Stimulus Funds | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Indiana Welcomes Stimulus Funds

Several Republican governors are still threatening to turn down billions in stimulus dollars from the federal government.  But Indiana's Mitch Daniels is not one of them.

The city of Gary is facing a crippling budget deficit, primarily because of property tax caps imposed by the state of Indiana. But If Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay is stressing over the need to cut $24 million from his city budget, he's not showing it.

CLAY: First of all I want to thank God for being the mayor of Gary in this time in history. There are good things happening in Gary, Indiana.

This is Mayor Clay announcing the show will go on – that's Gary's annual air show, despite the city's financial turmoil.

But Clay must reduce costs. And some of his suggestions have been unpopular such as cutting his police and fire budgets. Here's where he's hoping President's stimulus money may save the day.  Indiana will get four billion from the President's stimulus program. 

Clay says the city of Gary is asking the state for a large chunk of that. I'll let the mayor tell you how much.

CLAY: $400 million.

Some of that money could be used to pay his police force and buy new equipment. Although the city's seen a nearly 30 percent drop in homicides last year it still ranks near the top for American cities with 100,000 residents for murders. Reducing the police force by even one officer makes people here nervous.

CLAY: Public safety is number one in Gary, Indiana because if you don't have a safe city you can't have a great city.

Other projects are being looked at for funding. Clay says if all his projects go through, some 48 in all, it would create 19,000 jobs for his city and surrounding area.

But Gary's not the only one after the money. Police brass at the Lake County, Indiana sheriff's department, based here in Crown Point, hope stimulus money can provide funding for new equipment like a new 911 dispatch center.

Chief Marco Kuyachich says $9-million is needed to build a centralized 911 dispatching center to handle calls for the 17 municipalities in the county, including Gary.

KUYACHICH: Upgrading it would provide better cooperation between law enforcement agencies which would ultimately provide better service to our citizens within Lake County.

Others in the state are lobbying to spend the money on schools and highway construction. The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission is reviewing funding requests for highway repair and construction projects in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Agency director John Swanson says he has a list of about $300-million worth of shovel ready projects, projects that can start within 12 months.

SWANSON: They actually want the projects to be completed within essentially three years. That's actually pretty fast by government standards if you will.

That's good news for the state that's seen its unemployment rate jump as much as twice the national rate in some parts of the state.

Through the Republican governors of South Carolina and Louisiana have baulked at accepting the stimulus cash, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says he'll take it.

DANIELS: We've said from the beginning that we would make speed and jobs our two guiding principals.

And that doesn't sit well with Congressman Mike Pence, a Republican from the Hoosier state. He fears the money won't work the way it's intended to. He made his stance clear in a speech on the House floor last month.

PENCE:  It won't create jobs. The only thing that it will stimulate is more government and more debt and it will probably do more harm than good.

That argument isn't likely to slow things up in Indiana.

Back in Gary, Mayor Rudy Clay knows he's asking for a lot of money in that $400 million but looks to a famous Chicagoan for inspiration.

CLAY: Make no small plans. That's right, that's right.

Some bids for highway projects in Indiana were opened this week.

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