Melton: State Government Has Failed to Respond to Voters' School and Health Concerns
(INDIANAPOLIS) - Gary Senator Eddie Melton says he'll focus on education and health care in his campaign to unseat Governor Holcomb.
Melton says Holcomb's high approval ratings don't match what he heard from voters on a statewide tour this summer. He maintains voters in both parties are frustrated by a government they believe isn't responsive to their concerns about schools and health
The former State Board of Education member says he'd steer more money to traditional public schools instead of charters and vouchers. Holcomb and legislative Republicans have boasted of record increases in school spending, but Melton says the average increase of two-percent isn;t enough. And Melton says he'd revive a plan he offered unsuccessfully in the Senate this year to earmark money for teacher pay raises by canceling proposed voucher and charter expansions.
A teacher pay commission created by Holcomb is scheduled to offer recommendations next year. Melton says the commission is an unnecessary step. He says it's clear the state needs to pay teachers more to address a teacher shortage, and says the plan he and other Senate Democrats laid out would free up money to pay for it without a tax hike.
Melton says he'll continue to work with Republican state school superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who joined him for the summer tour and Tuesday's campaign kickoff. He says education shouldn't be a partisan issue, and praises McCormick for keeping her focus on what's best for students. But he declines to say whether McCormick could become his running mate, beyond saying "all options are on the table."
Melton criticizes Holcomb's addition of a work requirement to the Healthy Indiana Plan, a change which is being challenged in court. Melton warns the requirement could force thousands of Hoosiers off the only health insurance plan they have. And he says he'd support the legalization of marijuana, which Holcomb has opposed. He argues the state should listen to veterans' groups who have supported legalization as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and says Illinois and Michigan's legalization puts more pressure on the state to follow suit. And he says the money the state could earn from taxing legal sales could be used to expand opioid treatment.
Melton's entry gives Democrats a potential three-way primary for governor. Filing doesn't officially open until January. Melton, former state health commissioner Woodrow Myers and Carmel business owner Josh Owens must gather 45-hundred petition signatures to make the ballot.
Governor Holcomb is shrugging off Melton's entry, saying he's focusing on running the state and will let Democrats sort out their "intramural competitions" themselves. He's also brushing aside McCormick's defection, saying "her decisions are her decisions alone."
Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)