State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, chairs the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, the source for tax and budget bills. He entered the House in 1994, was appointed as chair of the committee in 2012, and is about to retire. I don’t think we’ve ever met, and I have no bone to pick with him personally.
But I wonder, Do we live in the same state? Rep. Brown was interviewed by Emily Ketterer of the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ 10/01/21 p.4A). Her question, among others, “What were some of your biggest accomplishments since you took office?”
Rep. Brown: “Over 28 years? I mean, the biggest thing is seeing the change in Indiana. Yeah. I mean, we were in the bottom third of lower economic growth, and now we’re in the top 10. So, to see that change in Indiana has been huge.”
This is an interesting response. Rep. Brown does not celebrate his own contributions to the state, but to the economic condition of the state during his tenure. I do wonder, however, if he and I live in the same state.
Typically, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the state level is used to measure the overall output of an economy. During Rep. Brown’s 28 years in the Legislature, Indiana’s GDP grew at a compound annual rate of 3.16% compared to 3.45% for the nation. Indiana ranked 28th among the 50 states.
During the first four years of Rep. Brown’s service, Indiana’s GDP growth averaged 6.1% (28th in the nation) and in the past four years 2.5% (23rd in rank). Despite the representative’s recollection, Indiana was not at the bottom of economic growth in those early years nor in the top 10 in the later years.
If we adjust GDP for population growth, we get a better measure of economic success. When we take population into account, Indiana’s per capita GDP advanced annually by 0.6% (30th in the nation), behind the U.S. average of 0.9%.
That’s the economic picture from the production side. But what about the worker/consumer side? Compensation per job grew by 3.4% annually in the U.S., but only 2.9% in Indiana during Rep. Brown’s years in the Statehouse. Our rank among the states was 48th.
In 1994 Hoosier compensation per job was $30,661 (24th among the 50 states) and 7.5% below the national average. By 2020 our compensation per job grew to $65,111 (without adjustment for inflation) or 37th among the states and 17% below the national average. With that increase of $34,450, Indiana stood 46th nationally where the increase amounted to $45,237.
Is Indiana making the progress so proudly hailed by our leading political figures? It’s time for them to face up to reality: our lot has worsened relative to the nation under their ill-conceived direction of Indiana’s economy.