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STATE HOUSE–Your kids should get an education in high school that prepares them for work, said Indiana’s Speaker of the House, Todd Huston, speaking on a panel with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Monday. He says that’s one priority for the state legislature when they convene in January.

“Talent is the number one issue. No one walks into my office from the business side of things, and doesn’t tell me there have been issues finding people, finding talented people, and I hate to say this, but people who will show up for work,” he said.

Huston said the General Assembly will work on a plan to “reinvent high school”, to make sure high school is more relevant for students.

“We’re gonna challenge employers every single day,” he said, laying some of the challenge on them to provide internships and opportunities for high school students to work and get a look at the business world before graduating.

“You can’t just say to the K-12 and higher ed system, deliver us a product, and not be heavily engaged in what that product looks like and what the skills and needs of those students are,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Greg Taylor said he agrees that the issue of not having enough trained people could end up causing businesses to locate elsewhere.

“But, we yet to address the issue that our children lag the rest of the country when it comes to educational attainment.,” he said. “Until we do that we’re gonna struggle with a workforce that can have the jobs of the 21st century.”

The Chamber is asking the legislature to consider some of their other priorities, too, which include healthcare prices and their long-held desire of adding a $2 tax on each pack of cigarettes sold in the state. That may be a no go with the General Assembly.

“I would say probably, unlikely or highly unlikely would be the answer,” said Huston.

Huston said he’s disappointed that only one hospital system in the state has committed to finding ways to bring health care costs down to the national average.

“I think we have to create more competition both in the provider place and in the insurer space. We need to make businesses and individuals better consumers of healthcare,” he said.

Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta concurred, adding that Hoosiers themselves can keep themselves healthy and state government can help by investing in trails and other means to do that.

The Indiana Chamber would also like the legislature to consider helping create an environment for better child care. The legislature will have a four-month session in 2023, to consider the state budget for the next two years. Legislative leaders believe Indiana is in good enough financial shape to handle a recession.