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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. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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