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VIDEO: Indiana Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Pre-K, LGBT Rights

Posted On October 04, 2016

By Mike Perleberg

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana’s gubernatorial candidates met for their second debate Monday, tackling everything from LGBT rights to preschool education.

During the debate at the University of Indianapolis, moderator John Ketzenberger, president of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, and audience members peppered the three hopefuls with questions mainly about Indiana’s economy, job creation, and the state’s workforce.

Democratic candidate John Gregg called on the state to roll out a pre-K education program statewide, asserting it is a workforce issue.

“This is why when I have met with executives at Lilly, Cummins, Hillenbrand, SalesForce, they say we’ve got to do pre-kindergarten. The time is now. Let’s quit studying it. Let’s do it. We can do it by prioritizing children, using existing dollars, and without raising taxes,” Gregg said.

But Republican candidate and lieutenant governor Eric Holcomb said the state should not rush into a statewide pre-K rollout. Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K program is currently operating in five pilot counties.

“I, again, am all in favor of expanding methodically, keeping in consideration costs and capacity. Some schools I talk to tell me ‘We’re not ready for this yet. Don’t make this mandatory. Don’t just throw a $500 million program on us and ask us to comply,” said Holcomb.

On the topic of LGBT right, Gregg said the 2014 Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy cost the state jobs, residents, and tourism dollars. If elected governor, Gregg vowed to issue an executive order giving civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees.

“Imagine having a governor that focuses on the economy, on high-wage jobs and on attracting jobs, not scaring them away,” Gregg said.

Holcomb said the “fix” Indiana lawmakers passed in the wake of the RFRA uproar allows local governments to take action on LGBT protections, if they choose to.

“We have in Indiana local ordinances that allow folks to address the economic development side of this with local HROs. If local communities seek to take advantage of those, they have been. If they seek not to, they haven’t been. That’s been the balance,” Holcomb said.

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Indiana gubernatorial hopefuls (left to right) John Gregg, Eric Holcomb, and Rex Bell debated for the second time on Monday, October 3. Photo by Associated Press, Indiana Debate Commission.

Gregg, a former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives and president of Vincennes University, called on the Republican-dominated legislature to stop being so heavy-handed toward local governments.

“This legislature has got to realize that the government that is best is the one that is closest to them. That’s their county commissioners, their mayor, the city council and local school board. We’ve got to stop micromanaging and we’ve got to start allowing a little flexibility and some local controls for our communities,” Gregg said.

Libertarian candidate Rex Bell also appeared at the debate, sometimes agreeing with either of his two opponents. Bell said as governor he would do away with property taxes.

The three gubernatorial hopefuls also discussed gun rights and immigration.

The third and final Indiana gubernatorial debate is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25 at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.

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