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House Republicans to push tax cut, preschool

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Republicans who control the Indiana House said Wednesday they’ll push to let counties cut a tax on business property and work to send more poor kids to preschool.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, presented an agenda focusing on workforce development – which also included a new focus on college internships, increased funding for roads and highways and the repeal of “burdensome regulations.”

The preschool and tax plan dovetail with Gov. Mike Pence’s agenda for the 2014 session – which started this week – but the Republicans have a different twist on both ideas.

While the governor wants a preschool program for all low-income students, Republicans will focus on what they call a “pilot,” initially helping about 1,000 children.

Indiana is currently one of 10 states that does not offer state-funded preschool programs and 60 percent of Indiana children aged 3 and 4 are not enrolled in preschool, he said. Republicans plan to accomplish their goal by linking preschool recipients to the K-12 voucher program.

“We had an aggressive program last year, which would have created a pilot program for about 1,000 preschool kids, low-income, high-quality programs around the state, and while we had a little success and are working something into the budget that was a scaled down version of that program, we’re coming back with our full-pilot program,” Bosma said. “It’s our hope that we can enact legislation this year that will be funded in next year’s budget preparing 1,000 children for early learning opportunities.”

Bosma didn’t offer many details about the preschool program or say how much it would cost. He said Republicans are still working on the specifics of how to pay for it.

In addition to the preschool program, House Republicans intend to address student training and internship programs to close the skill gap between generations. Bosma said Republicans want to create a tax incentive to encourage schools to place significance on internship opportunities for students.

“Work ethic is really wanting in many folks, not in our work force today or entering the work force,” Bosma said. That and other basic skills can be “very difficult to train.”

“Plenty of employers told me that if we can get these young people in training opportunities, we can help them with these issues,” he said.

Bosma said House Republicans also want to boost highway funding by using part of the $400 million that was set aside for future projects in the two-year budget passed in 2013. Pence has proposed something similar, but Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, is skeptical.

“We put in last session that we would not spend the $400 million in this budget cycle because we had already given an extra $100 million to local governments and given INDOT an extra $250 million, and we thought we would want to save it for special big projects,” Kenley said. “We’ll need to look over the proposal and if it makes sense.”

House Republicans also plan to eliminate or phase out the business personal property tax on new equipment. Bosma said that the tax is a “disincentive” for business owners looking to buy property in Indiana as surrounding states either do not have such a tax or have one that is much lower.

Eliminating the tax “will give local counties the option to give what they know the community needs,” Bosma said. He said the feedback he has received thus far has been consistently positive.

Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said later that while he supports the goals of the House Republicans’ agenda, he would have liked to have heard more details about the proposals.

And he said a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman is the “white elephant in the room.” He said Republicans are trying to avoid controversy by keeping the topic off their agenda. A few years ago, House Republicans had said the marriage amendment was one of the most important issues facing the state.

“It looks like an agenda to get out of the session as quickly as possible with the least damage,” Pelath said.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence said he was pleased with what he heard.

“I commend House leadership for producing an agenda that builds on the progress our state has made in education, infrastructure and economic development,” Pence said. “As this legislative session begins, every Hoosier should be encouraged by the shared priorities of this administration and both houses of the General Assembly.”

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  • Tax cut sleight of hand?
    It would seem that a tax cut must be made up in another way. Who, what, when, how and where will you make up for the loss of this income stream. Will it be by allowing the issuance of usage fee's that don't fall under the real estate tax cap? The revenue has to come from somewhere.
  • Tax Cut = Tax Hike
    Right. Cut the business tax and pass it on to homeowners. 1% property tax hike? Simply over assess by an outrageous $100,000 to make up the difference while five years behind in addressing pending appeals. BURDENSOME.
  • Fiddling While Rome Burns
    With all the threats we have from the federal government (ObamaCare, NSA, EPA Regulations...the list is almost endless), and all our state legislature has to do is this nickel & dime stuff? Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers are losing their health insurance, our electric utilities are losing their Indiana coal-fired power plants, and our general assembly is focusing on 1,000 pre-school kids and issues with local breweries??? We are sovereign and our state leaders need to take steps immediately to protect us from lawless federal government.

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