Statehouse victories tempered by Senate, budget concerns

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Gov. Mike Pence and House Republicans entered the 2014 legislative session with big plans for education, taxes and roads, but they often found themselves running into Senate roadblocks.

By the end of their 10-week stint, lawmakers had delivered Pence much of what he sought, but in much smaller pieces than he first pressed for. And because Pence's agenda matched up closely with that of House Republicans, the two often found themselves locking arms against the Senate.

One of the first indications of trouble was on an issue that has won broad support among Democrats and Republicans throughout the nation: early childhood education.

Through the middle of the session, it appeared likely that Pence's preschool pilot plan might be tabled so lawmakers could study the issue over the summer first. Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told Pence early on that he would have trouble winning new spending in year in which tax collections have lagged and there was no budget up for consideration.

Lawmakers ultimately approved a preschool plan in the final hours of the session, but it relies on Pence finding money through budget cuts and private donations. A summer study committee also will examine the best options for preschool.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, explained the Senate Republicans' approach, which he said involved "doing it deliberately, cautiously and not just saying, 'Well this has just gotta be done.'

"There's some evidence out there that some states have not had the success they hoped for. If we're going to do this in Indiana, we're going to make sure it works and it works correctly," he said.

Democrats who were seeking a more expansive preschool program -- Senate Democrats proposed funding a state-run plan rather than using vouchers -- were critical of the victory lap Republicans took at the close of session.

"We've been reduced to these sort of quasi-celebrations over a lot of quarter measures and things that sound good on paper and maybe impact some balance sheets, but really don't do anything to affect the people of Indiana," said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath.

The governor's tax cut proposal this year was also run through the wringer in the Senate before emerging with a much different look than the plan Pence originally sought.

Pence dialed back his initial call to eliminate the business tax on equipment completely as local opposition to the measure mounted. The final package of tax cuts never included a direct cut to the equipment tax and simply gives counties the option to cut it. It also pushes the start to July 1, 2015.

Delayed rollouts and major alterations are hardly new when it comes to the governor and tax cuts. Pence made cutting the state income tax by 10 percent the centerpiece of his first-year agenda. Lawmakers ended up giving him half the cut he originally sought and delaying its full impact until 2018.

House and Senate Republicans have also taken to using the governor's tax cut plans as vehicles for their own favored cuts. The elimination of the state's inheritance tax was tacked onto the 2013 plan and a cut to the state's banking tax was paired with a further cut to the corporate income tax, then added to this year's package of tax cuts.

It's a frequent dynamic at the Statehouse, where ideas big and small are floated in the House or by the governor's office and then run into intense scrutiny in the Senate. And it wasn't just Pence priorities that struggled through the Senate this year.

A measure pushed by Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, that would have forced some welfare recipients to undergo drug tests in order to receive their aid sailed through the House in the final hours of the session, 81-17. But it failed 24-24 in the Senate after a bipartisan mix of senators raised broad questions about unfairly punishing the state's poor residents.

"We peeled the onion last night up here at the microphone," Long said Friday. "In the end, this wasn't thought through as well as it could have been."

For his part, Pence said he was "grateful" for the help of Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma.

"I'm just extremely grateful to the legislative leadership in the House and Senate for what was a very consistent dialogue throughout the session," he said.


  • Less is more
    Less laws people, not more.
  • What Victories?
    Victories are in the eyes of the beholders. From this voting taxpayer's point of view (eyes), I did not see any big victories other than for businesses. In fact, businesses' victories will become the individual taxpayers' losses.
  • Scorecard
    Wealthy Business Interests 1: People 0

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.