People who have bought a house and started their pension programs already often ask, “Where should I be investing?” The question arises with a booming stock market as well as during the depths of a recession.
My answer remains, “Diversify your investments. Invest in your education, your skills, and your ability to understand our complex world. Then, if applicable, invest in the education of your children and grandchildren. And don’t forget to invest in the education of your neighbors’ children, in the schools of your community.”
This is the starting point of developing an informed citizenry and a capable workforce. Sadly, Hoosiers now recognize their failure over decades to make those investments. Thus, Gov. Eric Holcomb declares our need to upgrade the skills and employability of 55,000 workers.
Why is this government’s responsibility? The Indiana constitution recognizes the need for universal, free education. It does not provide for training workers to meet the specific needs of employers. That task is a private sector responsibility, something that rightfully falls on companies and unions.
However, state government might aid individual workers, paying part of the tuition for continuing education and skill development. This is a slippery slope that needs to exclude attendance at programs held in ski resorts. One does not hear of many “professional” meetings in Bedford, Logansport or Portland (IN).
But imagine Indiana allowing a percentage of the tuition for post-secondary education or training to be allowed as a deduction on the state income tax. It could result in a negative tax due which could be carried over as a credit against future income tax obligations. Similarly, Indiana could allow interest paid on a student or parent education loan to be a deduction against income.
Get your head around that. Indiana becomes a state that learns and earns. We encourage the education and training of our residents. If they go out-of-state for that education, that’s fine. But if they come back, they can reduce the costs of that education.
Think of it this way: a graduate of the high school in Sullivan finds a good vocational course at a school across the Wabash River in Illinois. He or she pays for the course in part with funds from Mom and Dad and through a student loan. When he or she comes back to Indiana and settles in Kendallville, some percent of that tuition can be used to lower his/her taxable income. And the same applies to the interest on the student loan.
If we are willing, as a state, to subsidize investments of firms in buildings and machinery, why shouldn’t we be equally willing to subsidize the education and training investments of our citizens. This tax policy makes Indiana a more attractive state in which to live and work.
(An unrelated note: Since we offer income tax credits for contributions to Indiana colleges and universities, why not include public libraries?)
Morton Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker who may be reached at email@example.com.