A tea party group's "erroneous" attacks on Indiana House Republicans and Gov. Mike Pence's campaign stumbles are the reason the governor's signature tax cut is in jeopardy of failing, House Speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday.
Pence has conducted an unorthodox, external lobbying campaign for his personal income tax cut, pumping his base of conservative supporters outside the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers during their 2013 session.
Americans for Prosperity, a national tea party group, has joined in, running TV and radio ads attacking Bosma and House Republicans for passing a $30 billion state budget that swaps the tax cut for more spending on roads and schools. Those ads, even with minimal airing in Indiana, finally got Bosma's goat.
"After 10 days of misinformation about it, it's a little difficult not to — as I indicated to the governor — defend where we are in the House budget," he said, referring to the ads. "That doesn't mean there can't be compromise, or can't be discussion. This wasn't drunken spending, as someone said, this was the most conservative approach to fiscal policy that this state's seen in 20 years."
Bosma later added that Pence was starting from a deficit in the General Assembly because he fumbled the plan's rollout last year, giving legislative leaders 45 minutes' notice before the announcement and never seeking their input.
"The message of our ad is an undisputed fact — Hoosier taxpayers know how to spend their hard earned dollars better than government does," AFP state director Chase Downham said in a written statement. "This issue isn't about House Republicans. It's about the taxpayers and small businesses that want and deserve this tax cut."
Downham did not return an email or phone call Thursday seeking further explanation.
Pence has gained little traction for his signature proposal, which would cut personal income taxes by 10 percent, despite overwhelming Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Instead, he has faced criticism from leaders like Bosma, who called the tax cut a politically expedient move.
"Governor Pence remains confident that all concerned will come together and produce a fiscally sound budget that funds our priorities and includes the kind of income tax relief that Hoosiers need and deserve," Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said in a written statement Thursday.
Pence and his supporters have maintained that lowering the tax from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent is the best way to fire up the state economy.
The tone has become increasingly acrid over the past week, even in the relatively genteel world of Indiana politics. Asked by a reporter Thursday about American for Prosperity's claim that he is a "RINO"— a Republican-in-name-only and considered a derisive term — Bosma fired back.
"If I'm a RINO, I think we're all in trouble," Bosma said. "I'm a pro-life, pro-tax cut, conservative budgeter. I'm happy where I am, and labels don't matter much. Particularly labels from folks like them."