Former U.S. Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson (C) speaks to Democrats at Mad Anthony’s Lake City Taphouse in Warsaw. Pictured listening are District 3 state Sen. Eddie Melton (R) and Indiana Democratic Party Director of Communications Drew Anderson (L). Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Former U.S. Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson (C) speaks to Democrats at Mad Anthony’s Lake City Taphouse in Warsaw. Pictured listening are District 3 state Sen. Eddie Melton (R) and Indiana Democratic Party Director of Communications Drew Anderson (L). Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A roomful of Democrats gathered at Mad Anthony’s Lake City Taphouse Tuesday to hear former U.S. Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson, District 3 State Sen. Eddie Melton and Indiana Democratic Party Director of Communications Drew Anderson talk about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan as part of the Indiana Democratic Party’s American Rescue Plan tour.

“This is one of our many stops across the state that the state party is doing,” Anderson told the attendees to start the discussion. “It is to celebrate the American Rescue Plan, and that is because the American Rescue Plan is helping Indiana and our families and our neighbors, our loved ones. We’re putting COVID-19 into the rearview mirror, and that means we’ve got shots in arms, relief checks in our bank accounts because it’s been a hard year and a half, and that also means we’re creating some good-paying jobs. And, as Democrats, we know we value those good-paying jobs because usually they’re union and that’s the way to go.”

He then gave a brief overview of the Rescue Plan.

“The biggest thing that you all need to know, because I know our future speakers may not say this, is that while the Rescue Plan is helping Indiana and Hoosier families, it’s worth remembering and repeating that not a dang Republican voted for it. They put their extreme partisanship ahead of common sense and ahead of our well-being. So what does that mean? That means that our two Democratic Congressmen … supported this common-sense legislation. But as we all know, it’s the Republican Party that’s going to try to manipulate voters’ minds and they’re going to try to make sure that voters do not understand the good news and the direct relief the Rescue Plan is bringing to us,” Anderson said.

He said the Republicans’ manipulation has already started from the Statehouse. The GOP, Anderson said, is sending out mailers to voters. The mailers say that $250 million worth of broadband expansion is because of them. “They’re wrong! It’s because of the Rescue Plan. It’s because of Eddie Melton. It’s because of Democrats in D.C. who got it done.”

Anderson also said the Republicans are claiming that $500 million is being spent on construction projects because of them. “They’re also wrong about that. So they’re trying to do this to manipulate voters’ opinions because they know that their agenda, and how they have governed, has done nothing but divide us, has caused us to turn our backs on our neighbors and they’ve started unnecessary culture wars that should not exist in this state and should not exist in this country,” Anderson continued. He said the Republicans are trying to continue a playbook that is outdated and needs to be retired.

Melton said the legislatures went into session this year knowing it would be a session like no other.

“We knew that because of COVID-19, we had to address a multitude of issues on top of education, returning back safely to school, ensuring that our schools had the right resources to feel safe,” Melton said. They had to address how to help small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic and deal with issues that were there even before COVID-19, he said. Indiana’s minimum wage is still at $7.25 an hour.  

Melton is now the assistant minority leader for the Statehouse, and his colleagues voted him to serve as ranking minority leader on the Appropriations Committee.

“So this budget that we’re talking about … is a bipartisan budget. But it wouldn’t be this way if it wasn’t for Joe Biden, the American president,” he said. “I remember sitting in the Budget Committee room and they give you the budget forecast for what the state revenue is going to look like. We didn’t know what it was going to be because we had heard we were going to be short this period and we were going to be that period. And it was jaw-dropping to see the amount of revenue that came in from the feds for the American Rescue Plan that supported, that went to the pockets of people you may know. That $1,400 that helped put food on the table. That helped support child care. That went back into our local economy.”

He said folks were buying more services and goods because the stimulus check helped people and their families.

Melton told the Democrats to keep a very close eye out for a program called Regional Economic Development, Ready 2.0.

“If you remember, several years ago under the previous governor’s administration, we had Regional Cities. It was a grant program that regions could apply for funding for economic development projects,” he said. “I met with the governor. When he issued his budget, it was at $150 million in this line item for Regional Cities. Senate Democrats, when we went in and fought for an increase for the food banks across the entire state – did you know that all of our food banks were getting $300,000 a year for the last 10 years? – we had amendments to increase it to $1 million. That was approved. We had amendments to address a variety of issues … that was approved. This was the first time Senate Democrats had a variety of amendments that were adopted in the state budget.”

He said that wasn’t normal.

Thompson said, “We are very fortunate at this point to have Joe Biden as our president because he is a man who understands the process and he has the respect, and the trustworthiness, he understands fairness and the importance of equal opportunity.”

She said the American Rescue Plan has done “so much” already, but there is a ways to go ahead. She said the kind of leaders we elect really matters and it matters across the country and with our individual families.

Breaking down how much money this area received, Thompson said Kosciusko County received $15.4 million; Warsaw received $3.1 million; the schools received $11.8 million; Milford, $330,000; Claypool, $90,000; Silver Lake, $190,000; Pierceton, $210,000; North Webster, $240,000; Mentone, $200,000; Syracuse, $600,000; and Winona Lake, $1.02 million.

“The American Rescue Plan set us up so we that we can build back better,” she said. “We are a great country, but we will only remain a great country if we all do our part. It’s sad, but not surprising, that President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, often referred to as the Infrastructure Bill, is getting opposition not because the plan isn’t good for the country, but for political reasons.”

The meeting was opened to questions, with the first one coming from Anderson. He asked how can the Democrats get through to those who aren’t Democrats and break down the barriers.

Melton said, “A lot of our friends on the other side of the aisle, they’ll say that Democrats spend money like drunken sailors. But, the reality is, under Republican control, we increased the national debt by $7.8 trillion. So, facts and information like that is extremely important to combat misinformation that is being shared.”