INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence says seven Indiana regions are all “winners” because they submitted proposals seeking millions in state redevelopment dollars offered through his signature Regional Cities initiative.
But in reality, only three of those metro regions; Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend will actually get a winning $42 million cut.
Left out of Pence’s final plan, approved Tuesday by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., was money for other parts of the state, including northwest Indiana, the Wabash River region, the Indianapolis area and Muncie.
Pence says applicants who pledged to use the state dollars along with local funding and private investments to build and redevelop amenities such as walking trails, rail lines, theaters and historical buildings are all winners.
Pence said his plan aims to make Indiana’s metro areas more desirable places to live by providing a monetary boost to encourage better urban planning. If successful, that could stem the outflow of younger Indiana residents who seek employment elsewhere.
But the effort puts state officials, under Pence’s direction, in the position of picking winners and losers, an idea that runs against the free-market conservative principles Pence says he supports.
The regional cities plan was a top priority for Pence during the last legislative session, though lawmakers were skeptical and approved $84 million in funding only in the session’s closing days.
Initially, only two regions were supposed to get selected as winners. But on Tuesday, Pence and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation announced that a third had been added, a move that will require Pence to go back to the Legislature for an additional $42 million during the coming session.
Thus far, the response from GOP lawmakers who dominate the Legislature has been mixed.