ELKHART — Find a way to stop it.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is calling on President Barack Obama to work toward ending the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act. Often dubbed Obamacare, it’s legislation of which the Republican governor is no fan.
Pence spoke to The News after a luncheon at The Lerner in downtown Elkhart Wednesday. That business-focused event was put on by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and AT&T.
“I have urged the president to provide the kind of leadership that can resolve this impasse as soon as possible,” Pence said outside The Lerner. “I’ve been a legislator. Now I’m an executive. I know that to get something accomplished between the administration and a legislature requires give and take.
“The posture of the (Obama) administration up to this point has been disappointing,” Pence continued. “I’m hopeful the president will sit down with congressional leaders in the hours and days ahead and forge an agreement that will get our government open again.”
Pence said Wednesday that he has long supported a repeal or delay of Obamacare. Earlier this week, he told reporters in South Bend that he supported efforts by his fellow Republicans to kill or delay the new health care law.
In a letter he sent to senators Monday, Pence outlined what he views as a potential area for common ground — repealing the health care law’s medical device tax. He said 79 senators supported the repeal in a non-binding resolution this spring.
Pence said one third of the world’s orthopedic industry is in Indiana, and the medical device industry employs around 20,000 Hoosiers.
During the luncheon, the governor touted fiscal success in Elkhart County and the state.
Pence said Indiana will have a surplus of more than $100 million in each of the next two years, and the state has nearly $2 billion in the bank. He also discussed the tax relief approved by the General Assembly, including lowering the income tax by 5 percent and ending “death taxes.”
“This was in fact the largest state tax cut in Indiana history, and it was a dividend for years of hard choices and fiscal responsibility by the people of Indiana,” he said.
Pence acknowledged that a quarter of a million Hoosiers are out of work, and the state’s unemployment rate is “stubbornly over 8 percent.” He indicated jobs creation will be a focus of his administration, and rolling back regulation in Indiana to promote business growth.
On the school front, Pence pushed for a renewed focus on career and vocational education in Indiana’s high schools.
“If you’ve got it in your heart and your mind to pursue higher education, we want to make sure college is affordable, we want to make sure you’re ready for it, we don’t want anything to stand in the way of your dreams of higher education,” the governor said. However, he also talked about the students who want to develop skills and go to work immediately after high school.
“Our high schools have to work once again for those kids,” Pence said.
To that end, according to Pence, 11 Regional Works Councils have been set up in Indiana. As part of the various councils, businesspeople and educators are tasked with answering a question: What should the high school curriculum look like in this region of the state to create pathways for students to graduate and go to work at jobs here?
Prior to Pence’s speech, Robert Thatcher also highlighted upbeat economic news. The chairman of the Chamber’s Economic Development Council, Thatcher pointed out that Elkhart County was recently ranked first in the nation in job growth.
“That is not a blip,” Thatcher said. “That is a strong up trend.” He also touted a report that put Elkhart County as number three in the nation for gross domestic product growth.
Pence contrasted the Elkhart area of today with the one of just a few years ago. The recession hit hard, and Elkhart drew national attention. Pence on Wednesday praised the faith, character, hard work and resilience of the local community.
“Elkhart is back,” the governor said. “and you’re inspiring the people of this state.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.