INDIANAPOLIS  — This week there’s nothing but good news to report about Indiana. Many readers will say this is long overdue. Rightfully, they want to feel good about our state, to read about our achievements and opportunities. Enough with ugly clouds of statistics, let’s celebrate the sunlight.

We open with a report from the cheery folks at the Tax Foundation who discovered, in the depths of data from the Bureau of the Census, federal aid was 38% of Indiana’s total state general revenue in FY 2017, the most recent year of data available.  The national figure was a mere 23%. Indiana ranks 10th highest among the 50 states in reliance on federal funding.

After years of complaining about not getting our fair share of federal aid to states, we’ve broken into that elite quintile, just behind West Virginia and a fraction ahead of Kentucky. Still, some Hoosiers yearn for those days in the 20th Century when Indiana refused to seek or accept federal funds. But now we’re hep, we’re woke.

And it’s federal dollars that will help connect I-64, running from Louisville to St. Louis across southern Indiana, with I-69, winding northeast from Evansville to Indianapolis. INDOT is out there holding meetings to get public input on an expanded roadway focused on Jasper.

This new road might simply run north along what is now U.S. 231. But the Feds require many routes be considered. That’s a boon for the Hoosiers in Opposition. Now, the HIO can call out those folks who retired after battling I-69. Now, a juiced-up economic development cadre will once again have fierce foes with whom they can feud.

A complement to this decade-long contest is Senate Bill 350, a worthwhile effort to broaden thinking in Central Indiana. Imagine Marion and its contiguous counties, cities and towns coalescing into a regional economic development authority.

What wonders that could do for infrastructure planning and financing, for education programs, for transportation integration, for housing our diverse population, for inter-governmental environmental cooperation, and the provision of local government services.

Wisely, however, the State Senate, when passing this bill 48 to 1, provided a sunset date of July 1, 2025, for this cross-county, voluntary authority. By then it must provide a comprehensive economic development strategic plan. [Note: Madison and Howard counties are excluded from engaging in this exercise; no need to be too comprehensive.] Strategic plans normally are instruments of obstruction designed to take time and effort away from doing. The required plan assures us no actual change will occur before mid-decade to disrupt the comfy competition and charming ineffectiveness of today’s metropolitan units.   

However, SB350 just might be that toe in water, that foot in the door, that camel’s nose in the tent, which eases us into a new, less-constraining era: A time when 18th Century thinking ceases to dominate our 21st Century lives. 

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.