State legislators representing constituents in Clay County participated in a "crackerbarrel" forum Saturday at the Cory Volunteer Fire House.
Hosted by Clay County Farm Bureau, the event gave those in attendance an opportunity to meet their representatives in Indianapolis face-to-face. District 46 Rep. Vern Tincher, Sen. Richard Bray, District 44 Rep. Andy Thomas and District 43 Rep. Clyde Kersey weighed in on the important decisions currently under their consideration, with Gov. Mitch Daniels' Major Moves initiative dominating the discussion.
The forum afforded the legislators a chance to gather input from their constituents and personally connect with the people they represent in Indianapolis.
"I think this is how democracy is supposed to work," Kersey said.
Topics of discussion ranged from property taxes to eminent domain to the time zone issue, but the prospective lease of the Indiana Toll Road to foreign interests proved the most divisive.
The panel was split evenly along party lines. Tincher and Kersey, both Democrats, expressed reservations about the plan, while Republicans Bray and Thomas voiced their support for Major Moves and Gov. Daniels.
Tincher said he favors continued state control of the toll roads, suggesting the sale of government bonds to cover the costs of improvements to Indiana roadways outlined in Major Moves.
"We can bond for highways over 20 years and get $800 million in construction money," he said. "I'd rather see us keep our toll road. I think (the bonds) are a better idea than shipping our profits overseas."
Thomas voiced his continued support of the measure, which passed the House Ways and Means Committee last week by a vote of 14-10. He said the immediate improvements to Indiana roads the $3.85 billion lease will justify the terms of the lease.
"There are some details to be worked out, but we're out of money in this state. We didn't really have much of a choice," he said.
Kersey argued against Major Moves, wondering what the state would do when the immediate revenues from the lease dried up.
"We're mortgaging the future for now. We're setting a dangerous precedent here," he said. "I don't want to see Indiana made up of a series of toll roads."
Despite the occasional tension, Tincher said he felt the meeting was a success, allowing the legislators face time with constituents they may not see very regularly.
"It's nice to be out of Brazil, so the people in the central and the southern parts of the county can show up," he said.
Clay County Farm Bureau will also host a Candidate's Forum Feb. 26 at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
Editor's note: The Brazil Times and Clay County Farm Bureau are planning a candidate's form before the May primary election.
Watch the newspaper for more information.