One GOP candidate for governor proposed massive tax changes Wednesday while another outlined a plan to strengthen public safety.
Former Attorney General Curtis Hill has a six-point economic plan that slashes several taxes while former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers has a seven-point proposal to strengthen support for first responders.
Candidates have slowly rolled out proposals ahead of next year’s primary election in May to succeed Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is term limited. In addition to Hill and Chambers, Republican heavyweights in the race include: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden. Nearly all five of those candidates have hefty war chests, promising an expensive race for the party nomination.
The winner will likely face former Superintendent of Education Jennifer McCormick, who previously held office as a Republican but is running on the Democratic ticket, and Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who made state history when he garnered over 10% of the vote in the 2020 election.
Hill’s proposals for the state’s economy
Hill’s economic plan released on Wednesday targets gas taxes, corporate tax rates, income taxes and sales taxes—but not Crouch’s broad call to “axe” the state’s income tax for all Hoosiers, which nets roughly $8 billion annually.
Rather, the six proposals included in “Indiana’s Pathway to Prosperity” eliminates the income tax for young earners between the ages of 18 and 35 along with seniors—the latter of which would also benefit from a 3% cap on sales taxes.
When pressed, Hill’s team didn’t provide estimates for what such proposals would cost or suggest cuts to services impacted by the decreased revenue.
“Our plan makes marginal cuts that will ease the burden on Hoosier taxpayers. This, in turn, will boost our economy, encourage economic growth and investment, and encourage Hoosiers to work, live, and retire in Indiana. These cuts will benefit all taxpayers and businesses while also encouraging new ones to move to and invest in our state. Our plan eases the tax burden on Hoosiers while simultaneously expanding the tax base,” Hill said in response to questions.
Currently, Indiana’s income tax rate is 3.15%, but state lawmakers are slowly slashing that rate to 2.9% over the next few years.
The “Pathway to Prosperity” includes:
– Reducing Indiana’s gasoline use tax by 16 cents, a move that would cost the state $230 million in revenue, according to Hill. He said cutting this tax would encourage investment and expansion of commerce companies while helping the average Hoosier. Estimates provided by the budget agency during session were than one penny brings in about $30 million to the state’s coffers.
– Lowering the trigger percentage for the state’s automatic taxpayer refund from 12.5% to 10% of the state’s reserves. Hill’s proposal is at the low end of “prudent” reserves between 10-12% and below the 15% sought by Senate budget writers. State law requires that reserves above the 12.5% cutoff are split between a pension fund—Indiana’s only outstanding debt obligation—and a taxpayer refund.
– Cutting the state’s corporate tax rate from 4.9% to 3.5%, which would make it one of the lowest in the nation. The move would “encourage new businesses to invest in our state, which in turn will bring new jobs, better opportunities … and a larger tax base to accommodate such a cut without hurting the fiscal stability of our state.”
– Implementing zero-based budgeting for state agencies, which Hill said would “address wasteful government spending” to offset the proposed cuts.
– Eliminating young earners income tax for Hoosiers between 18 and 35. No estimate was given.
– Reducing sales taxes to 3% for seniors and eliminating the retirement income tax. No estimate was given.
Hill, in his release, called the cuts “calculated and fiscally responsible,” saying it encouraged young Hoosiers and seniors to stay in Indiana.
“Our plan doesn’t just tell voters what they want to hear. These cuts are fiscally conservative and responsible. Hoosiers are ready for a proven conservative leader who delivers for them, not just campaigns for their vote,” Hill said.
Chambers on investments to public safety
Chambers released a public safety plan Wednesday that included proposals related to bail, qualified immunity and fentanyl with the goal of supporting first responders.
“Our law enforcement officers and first responders have endured relentless attacks over the past few years, all while career politicians out in Washington, D.C., call for their departments to be defunded or their legal protections to be scaled back,” Chambers said in a release. “For Indiana to be prosperous, we must first ensure Hoosiers and our communities are safe — that starts by supporting law enforcement and first responders, not attacking them.”
Called “Protect and Serve,” the seven-point plan includes detailed bullet points on his campaign website.
According to his website, actions include:
– Mandatory minimum bail for violent and repeat offenders—a recent topic in the General Assembly—saying that judicial discretion has been too lenient and put Hoosiers at risk.
– Strengthening qualified immunity for law enforcement and first responders by codifying it into state law.
– Creating regional, multi-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional task forces to address fentanyl overdoses and drug abuse with the power to investigate deaths attributable to synthetic opioids. These teams will be able to target “dealers and traffickers more efficiently and effectively,” according to Chambers.
– Enhanced recruitment and retention efforts for first responders by working with the secretary of education and higher education institutions to create “expedited pathways” alongside out-of-state recruitment.
– Expanding existing behavioral health centers and building more as well as funding appropriate mental health treatment for offenders so they can “be placed on the path to recovery to prevent future offense.” Additionally supporting first responders ability to “commit offenders in crisis to a behavioral health center.”
– Identifying training gaps for local first responders and developing additional training to prepare them to address the fentanyl epidemic and mental health problems.
– Allowing licensed childcare facilities to qualify for the Indiana Secured School Grant program—which allows schools to use taxpayer dollars on school resource officers as well as firearm training for teachers.
Previously, Chambers offered online safety proposals geared for children but has yet to weigh in on hot topic social issues. Unlike his competitors, Chambers stances on public issues are relatively slim because he has never held or campaigned for public office—leaving these two plans as clues to how he’d work as an elected official.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.