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Pence makes final plea for tax cut in budget

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence shifted his stance on tax cuts somewhat Wednesday, saying he would consider a longer phase-in of the income tax cut he is seeking, but he still won't budge on the size of the cut.

The governor also said he would like to see a quicker phase-out of the state's inheritance tax, hinting that he may be open to supporting a mix of tax cuts that House and Senate budget leaders say they plan to include in the budget.

In arguing for a 10-percent cut in the state's income tax, Pence hit harder Wednesday on points such as out-of-state competition and Indiana's lackluster tax burden. But his core argument, that a cut in the income tax would best spur the state's economy, did not change.

"I'm really just a salesman at heart," he told business leaders gathered Wednesday for an Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce lunch.

The governor's "closing argument" on the tax cut comes a little more than a week before lawmakers are expected to sign off on the state's next biennial budget. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told members of his chamber Wednesday they might end the session by next Friday, a few days ahead of their April 29 deadline.

But House and Senate negotiators will first have to approve a compromise plan. Members of the budget conference committee formally met for the first time Wednesday afternoon and heard testimony on a range of issues, from school funding to smoking-cessation plans, but most negotiations are set to be worked out in private.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, called the Senate plan an "opportunity budget" that maintains the state's fiscal integrity while cutting more taxes, increasing road and education spending and paying down state debt.

But Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis, the House Democrats' budget leader, suggested the budget would provide very little opportunity for anyone.

"Both the House- and Senate-passed budgets, as they currently stand, are woefully inadequate, particularly when it comes to serving the budgetary needs of the majority of Indiana residents for the next two years," he said.

Democrats have pushed with some success this session to restore previous cuts in roads and schools funding. But any final budget will still be primarily a Republican product. The GOP holds supermajorities in both chambers, outnumbering Democrats 37-13 in the Senate and 69-31 in the House.

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