Letter: Chat with legislator reveals common concerns

From: Noel Taylor


“You look amazingly like Milo Smith” is how I spoke to the gentleman who opened the door for me at the Bartholomew County Governmental Office Building on Nov. 9 as I joined him in line to pay property taxes. That got me a warm handshake from our state representative.

I introduced myself and took the opportunity to ask him what the hot buttons were likely to be in the upcoming session of the legislature. “Infrastructure and education,” he said. He spoke of the decrease in fuel tax revenue as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient and shared that due to inadequate funding repairs have been superficial only. He went into quite a bit of detail on the need to replace road base every 20 years to the depth of 8 feet.

I responded that I could see and feel the results of falling behind and shared that a friend of mine who retired from the state highway department just before his death had warned his supervisors that the overlay being done on Interstate 65 between Columbus and Indianapolis at the end of Mitch Daniels’ administration wouldn’t last a year. (He was right.) Milo suggested a 5-cent-per-gallon increase in the fuel tax to build the highway fund back up, noting that low fuel prices made now good timing. I promised my support. He smiled.

Education was our next topic. I spoke of my support for the Family School Partnership program that sends Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. staff into homes to teach parenting skills. He spoke of the Nurse Family Partnership program that sends Columbus Regional Hospital staff into homes to teach nutrition and assist with children’s medical needs. I was a bit surprised to hear Milo speak the truth about the underlying problem — parents, or the lack thereof — for which these fine programs can only serve as a poor substitute.

I then shared with him my concern about the prekindergarten initiative, noting published studies ranging from Germany in the 1950s to Tennessee just this year that document that those children given academics at the pre-K level, though they seem to do better at the beginning of kindergarten, actually do worse than their non-pre-K peers from third grade onward. Milo really surprised me by coming right back with the statistics from the Head Start studies that show that any perceived advantage to that half-century, billions-of-dollars program is washed out by third grade.

I was impressed that he knew this and told him so, adding that a wash is better, in spite of the huge monetary waste, than making things worse as pre-K has been shown to do. Milo agreed, and we both acknowledged Gov. Mike Pence’s initiative in spite of research outcomes. He then volunteered that he hates politics but sticks with it because he liked being able to help people.

At that point it was Milo’s turn at the payment window, and the conversation was over.