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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. Socialized medicine works great for white people in Scandanavia. It works well in Costa Rica for a population that is partly white and partly mestizo. I don't really see Obamacare as something aimed against whites. I think that is a Republican canard designed to elicit support from white people for republican candidates who don't care about them any more than democrats care about the non-whites they pander to with their phony maneuvers. But what is different between Costa Rica nd the Scandanavian nations on one hand and the US on the other? SIZE. Maybe the US is just too damn big. Maybe it just needs to be divided into smaller self governing pieces like when the old Holy Roman Empire was dismantled. Maybe we are always trying the same set of solutions for different kinds of people as if we were all the same. Oh-- I know-- that is liberal dogma, that we are all the same. Which is the most idiotic American notion going right back to the propaganda of 1776. All men are different and their differences are myriad and that which is different is not equal. The state which pretends men are all the same is going to force men to be the same. That is what America does here, that is what we do in our stupid overseas wars, that is how we destroy true diversity and true difference, and we are all as different groups of folks, feeling the pains of how capitalism is grinding us down into equally insignificant proletarian microconsumers with no other identity whether we like it or not. And the Marxists had this much right about the War of Independence: it was fundamentally a war of capitalist against feudal systems. America has been about big money since day one and whatever gets in the way is crushed. Health care is just another market and Obamacare, to the extent that it Rationalizes and makes more uniform a market which should actually be really different in nature and delivery from place to place-- well that will serve the interests of the biggest capitalist stakeholders in health care which is not Walmart for Gosh Sakes it is the INSURANCE INDUSTRY. CUI BONO Obamacare? The insurance industry. So republicans drop the delusion pro capitalist scales from your eyes this has almost nothing to do with race or "socialism" it has to do mostly with what the INSURANCE INDUSTRY wants to have happen in order to make their lives and profits easier.

  2. Read the article - the reason they can't justify staying is they have too many medicare/medicaid patients and the re-imbursements for transporting these patient is so low.

  3. I would not vote for Bayh if he did run. I also wouldn't vote for Pence. My guess is that Bayh does not have the stomach to oppose persons on the far left or far right. Also, outside of capitalizing on his time as U. S. Senator (and his wife's time as a board member to several companies) I don't know if he is willing to fight for anything. If people who claim to be in the middle walk away from fights with the right and left wing, what are we left with? Extremes. It's probably best for Bayh if he does not have the stomach for the fight but the result is no middle ground.

  4. JK - I meant that the results don't ring true. I also questioned the 10-year-old study because so much in the "health care system" has changed since the study was made. Moreover, it was hard to get to any overall conclusion or observation with the article. But....don't be defensive given my comments; I still think you do the best job of any journalist in the area shedding light and insight on important health care issues.

  5. Probably a good idea he doesn't run. I for one do not want someone who lives in VIRGINIA to be the governor. He gave it some thought, but he likes Virginia too much. What a name I cannot say on this site! The way these people think and operate amuses me.

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