Pence agenda includes tax cuts, pre-K vouchers

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Gov. Mike Pence will ask lawmakers in 2014 to cut more than $1 billion in taxes for businesses, parents and individuals and spend hundreds of millions more on roads, workforce development and preschool for poor Hoosier children.

But in an address at the BGD Legislative Conference in Indianapolis Thursday, the governor steered clear of any details—including how he would pay for his proposals—saying he’ll provide more specifics in the coming weeks. His speech came just after some legislative fiscal leaders had expressed skepticism about too much new spending.

“Our intention today was to lay out a very bold agenda for the upcoming session of the General Assembly,” Pence said. The goal was to begin “with policies that will increase employment in Indiana and also increase private sector investment.”

“I hope this gives you all something to think about and something to talk about,” he said during the conference, where lawmakers and lobbyists were gathered for a pre-session event.

The day included sessions with legislative leaders and fiscal experts, some of whom had warned they were unlikely to spend much new money in 2014, a so-called short session. The state’s two-year budgets are created during long-sessions, which will next take place in 2015.

House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said his mantra for the session has been “don’t open the budget.” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said, “As I look at the scope of these proposals, I wonder how he plans to reconcile new spending with his own reputation as a rabid fiscal conservative.”

And Sen. Ryan Mishler, a Bremen Republican who serves on both tax and appropriations committees, said the state should probably have even more in the bank than the $2 billion cash surplus it currently boasts.

But Pence said lawmakers should act now.

The Republican said phasing out the personal property tax—a tax on business equipment—will be a key part of his agenda. But he provided no details about how local governments would deal with $1 billion in lost revenue, which is used to fund cities, counties, schools, libraries and other local services.

The governor said he will seek to “ensure that this reform does not unduly harm local government.” And he said lawmakers could approve a phase out of the tax and decide in future years how to replace the lost revenue, something he said would be more of a “tax reform” than a tax increase.

But Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, said that absent identifying a revenue source for local government, “we’ve got to be cautious” about eliminating the personal property tax.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said his caucus will also propose cuts in the personal property tax but he said the plan will likely give local officials some discretion. He said the plan’s details are yet to be worked out but lawmakers could approach the issue like they did the elimination of the inventory tax.

In that case, lawmakers launched a phase out the inventory tax but also gave local officials the opportunity to eliminate it more quickly. That law also let local raise income taxes to help make up the lost revenue.

Pelath called the personal property tax plan a “corporate giveaways” that “is going to end up hurting families.”

Pence also said he will ask lawmakers to create a voucher program to help needy Hoosier children go to preschool, although he did not say how it would be funded.

“The time has come for Indiana to provide access to pre-kindergarten for all the disadvantaged children in our state,” Pence said. “It’s time for us to give our most disadvantaged kids a better chance at success.”

His plan would make vouchers available to children in families with household incomes of up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $43,567 for a family of four. Children could use those vouchers to attend a private or public preschool program that met state standards, he said.

Pence did not say how much the plan voucher plan would cost or how it would be funded.

Preschool is expected to be a priority for some Republicans and Democrats as well, although fiscal leaders in the House and Senate have expressed concern about the costs.

Brown said Thursday that lawmakers could put a preschool structure in place that determines who qualifies for the program. Then, he said, “it can be funded in a budget year.” That would be 2015.

Pence said he will also ask lawmakers to:

— Release $400 million in transportation money the General Assembly set aside last year for future road projects.

— Index the state’s $1,000 personal exemption and $1,500 dependent child exemptions to inflation, meaning they would increase over time to save individuals and parents more money.

— Streamline adoptions in Indiana.

— Develop a plan to raise public and private sector money to boost development in the state’s cities.

— Create an Indiana Teacher Innovation Fund to promote classroom innovation.

Pence said the changes are necessary to keep the state competitive in the race for economic development and job growth.

“We will rise to this challenge because the people of Indiana are the best people on earth,” Pence said. “They deserve nothing less.”


  • Bugs bunny
    One the words of bugs bunny, what an embessall what an ultra maroon!!!
  • What universe?
    I wonder what universe he's REALLY living in? Certainly not one that mere mortals inhabit!
  • Lofty Goals With No Beef
    The Governor again espouses lofty goals with no details as to how the goals are to be achieved. After a campaign and a year in office he is still recycling many of the same ideas. How he can continue to call for tax cuts and yet improve the quality of Hoosier lives with new programs is a mystery to me. Seems as though he is still in his talk show and "tea party talk" modes.
  • Details
    Details to come later.....or never. Let's cut the tax with no obvious way to pay for it and call it reform. Just a political stepping stone for Pence. This is no better than the college coach that breaks all the rules to win in year one, then leave to take a higher paying job leaving the university to pick up the pieces. Sounds like he is wanting to leave a crap sandwich for his successor.
  • Do not treat us like idiots !
    More hocus pocus from the Republicans. It has not worked yet and it will not work in the future. Ask Tony Bennett he can fill you in.
  • fuzzy math
    Let's remove $1 billion in lost revenue, which is used to fund cities, counties, schools, libraries and other local services...but ensure that this reform does not unduly harm local government. *facepalm*
  • fuzzy math
    Let's remove $1 billion in tax revenue $1 billion in lost revenue, which is used to fund cities, counties, schools, libraries and other local services...but ensure that this reform does not unduly harm local government. *facepalm*
  • Unbelieveable
    Republicans won't stop until local governments cease to exist. Step-by-step, they are removing power from the citizens of this state to put into the hands of a very select few in the political realm.
  • Spend more, tax less
    Faith-based government at its best.

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

  2. When the Indiana GOP was going around the State selling the Voucher bill they were promising people that the vouchers would only be for public charter schools. They lied. As usual.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.