By GERRY DICK
Inside INdiana Business Television
INDIANAPOLIS — With another contentious debate surrounding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act looming in the upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly, Gov. Mike Pence says he has yet to come to any conclusions on the issue.
Pence has been meeting with Hoosier business leaders on legislative priorities, including RFRA. “There’s been discussion on what we all went through last spring,” said Pence, in an interview on Inside Indiana Business Television. “We’ve come to no conclusion in our office, but we will listen respectfully to all sides.” When asked for a yes or no answer on if he thinks there will be RFRA-related legislation this session, he replied, “I think that’s yet to be seen.”
Last spring, some of the state’s best known brands, including Eli Lilly and Co., Cummins, Inc. and the NCAA helped to broker a compromise in the face of a firestorm of negative national attention focused on RFRA and Indiana. High-profile executives acknowledge it was likely a temporary fix. In a September interview, Lilly Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter said, “Unfortunately it had an impact, and you can’t sort of reel it back in. I think we set the stage for another round of discussions coming up.”
In an interview that aired on Inside INdiana Business Television, the governor also commented on his “21st Century Crossroads Plan,” which targets $1 billion to maintain state roads and bridges, and responded to Democrat critics who call it too little, too late. “It’s a free country and people are entitled to their own opinions,” says Pence, “but they are not entitled to their own facts, and the fact is Hoosiers can be very proud of the investment made in infrastructure over the past decade.”
Pence said his roads plan is tied to growing the Hoosier economy, which he says “is on a roll,” including in the area of wages, which continue to lag the nation.
“In the last year, 56 tech companies have committed to nearly 4,000 jobs, and in the tech sector, wages are higher, about $37 an hour,” said the first-term Republican. “The great news today is with us on another record pace for economic development deals, all of these deals have an average hourly wage of more than $25 an hour, that’s more than the state average and more than the national average and it represents, I think a foundation for real progress for raising incomes across the board in Indiana.”