Pence touts tax cut, education in State of the State address

2013-01-22T21:30:00Z 2013-01-24T00:51:06Z Pence touts tax cut, education in State of the State addressDan Carden, (317) 637-9078
January 22, 2013 9:30 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence defended his proposed income tax cut during his first State of the State address Monday, and pledged to expand the availability of private school vouchers, promote vocational education and encourage strong families.

Declaring his 2014-15 state spending plan a "jobs budget," Pence told a skeptical General Assembly that reducing the personal income tax rate by 10 percent will give businesses "more money to hire new employees, purchase new equipment and grow."

The Republican governor said his budget, even with the $750 million tax cut, can fund all the services Indiana needs, spend more money on jobs programs and still have revenue left over to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

"Let's be honest with our fellow Hoosiers: We can afford to do this," Pence said. "And on behalf of millions of hardworking Hoosiers, small businesses and family farms, with the deepest respect I ask for your support."

He indirectly rejected the preferences of many lawmakers, including some Republicans, that the state's budget surplus be used to reverse prior cuts — particularly in education, which would get only a 1 percent bump under Pence's budget.

At the same time, Pence said he supports "community-driven" efforts to establish prekindergarten programs and endorsed legislation to expand voucher eligibility by eliminating a requirement that students first attend one year of public school and waiving income limits for foster, adopted, disabled and military children.

He also called on lawmakers to make technical and vocational education a priority by creating Regional Works Councils that would incorporate local business training needs into the school curriculum.

"We have to give our kids, our future, every opportunity for success. That means quality schools, choices about their education and multiple pathways to success," Pence said. "The more our kids succeed in the classroom, the more Indiana will succeed."

Pence concluded by asking lawmakers to help reduce the state's 22 percent child poverty rate by promoting married, two-parent families.

"Given the undeniable relationship between childhood poverty and unmarried childbearing, Indiana should seek ways to encourage strong, healthy families for our kids, our communities and our state," he said.

The 26-minute speech, which began with Pence declaring "the state of our state is strong," was interrupted by applause 27 times.

Afterward, House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Democrats are willing to work with Pence to make his tax cut a reality, so long as Pence can make the case that reducing income taxes is the best way to improve the lives of middle class Hoosiers.

"The middle class is facing a lot of different pressures and not just in taxes," Pelath said. "They're facing pressure in paying for education and garnering new skills, they're facing pressure in health care, they're facing pressure in making sure their streets stay safe."

State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, who serves on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he's not sure if the numbers will add up for Pence's tax cut.

"The question, of course, is going to be how do we manage to arrange the puzzle pieces as we work our way through a couple thousand bills, all of which are going to have costs or savings," Slager said. "There's just too many unknowns to even speculate on that."

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