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Senate budget leader: Schools, roads need boost

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Indiana lawmakers have been aggressive in cutting taxes in recent years, the state Senate's top budget writer said Thursday as his committee started reviewing a spending plan that leaves out Republican Gov. Mike Pence's proposed 10-percent income tax cut.

The Senate Appropriations Committee began its review of the House-approved spending plan on the same day a tea party group announced a television ad campaign in support of Pence's proposal.

The two-year budget developed by House Republicans would spend $200 million more for education and $500 million more for road projects than proposed by Pence, in part by leaving out the nearly $800 million in tax cuts over that time.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he largely agreed with the spending priorities in the House plan, although he expected the Senate would be looking closely at the projected 17-percent increase in Medicaid costs the state faces even without any expansion of the health care program for the poor.

"Will that be so much that it's going to threaten our ability to give education increases in the future?" Kenley said. "I think that's the biggest question in the budget."

The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity held a news conference outside the governor's office announcing its campaign aimed at promoting Pence's proposal to cut the income tax rate from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent. Leaders of the group, founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, declined to say how much it would spend on the advertising.

Tim Phillips, the group's national president, urged the large Republican majorities in both the House and Senate to follow Pence's lead.

"I think a lot of Indiana families, and I think the nation is watching, really, to see what they're going to do with this power," Phillips said. "Are they going to float along with the comfortable status quo or is it going to be a genuinely bold attempt to get this economy moving again?"

Kenley pointed to the Legislature's 2011 decision to cut the corporate income tax rate incrementally from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent and its approval last year of a 10-year phase out of the state inheritance tax.

"I do think that Indiana has already set a very aggressive standard" for tax cuts, Kenley said.

The Senate committee is expected to hold several budget hearings before advancing a proposal to the full Senate in about a month. House and Senate negotiators will need to reach a final agreement ahead of the late April deadline for ending the legislative session.

The committee's top Democrat said she was generally pleased with the House GOP budget plan, although she believes more should be done to restore the $300 million in cuts to K-12 funding that then-Gov. Mitch Daniels made during the recession.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said she didn't think the state was flush enough to afford a tax cut as large as Pence is seeking.

"We're still on the edge," Tallian said. "We need to make sure that we've shored up what we have and what we've cut rather than just start giving it back and say 'Oh, we didn't need that.'"

Kenley said Pence's tax cut proposal would remain in consideration as budget deliberations continues.

"Obviously we want to fund schools, we want to fund roads, we want to fund higher education," he said. "Even a conservative Republican will say these are the kind of investments in the future that you have to make. So we gotta reach that right balance."

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  • NOT MUCH
    I do not expect much from Pence. The statehouse is in charge of OUR money
  • Wait a second
    49% of voters put Pence into office. 51% of us voted for John Gregg or Rupert.
  • What Kenley said
    As a voter who did not vote for Pence, I applaud Kenley for showing some rare common sense by not implementing Pence's tax cut. We've starved schools and infrastructure too long. Businesses look at those things, too, when they consider whether they locate in a state. Pence is just doing this because he has no other ideas to offer and to look good to ultra right-wingers in hopes of a 2016 Presidential run.
  • Kenley needs some guidance
    Maybe Sen. Kenley ought to ask the voters what they think. They did put Pence in office, y'know. And it wasn't just for his good looks.

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

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