2014 Indiana General Assembly

Senate panel chops another Pence priority

2014-02-20T17:45:00Z 2014-02-20T18:14:11Z Senate panel chops another Pence priorityDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
February 20, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has scaled back another of Republican Gov. Mike Pence's pricey plans, this time halving Pence's proposal to immediately spend $400 million set aside last year for long-term road construction projects.

The Kenley-led Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday changed House Bill 1002 to permit Pence to spend $200 million to address pressing major road needs, such as adding another lane to Interstate 65 in both directions between Merrillville and Lowell.

Under the revised plan, which now goes to the full Senate, Pence still could use the remaining $200 million for road projects.

But Kenley gave him the option of keeping the money in the state's general fund, which is used to cover nearly all other spending, primarily education.

That puts Pence in something of a bind, since lackluster state revenue has forced the governor to cut $172 million in planned spending since taking office in January 2013.

Extreme winter weather that reduced sales tax collections and the delayed effects of the 2013 tax cuts for businesses and wealthy families are expected to further reduce state revenue in coming months.

Leaving the $200 million in the general fund likely would eliminate the need for additional budget cuts through June 2015.

However, Pence has said he's committed to immediately putting the money to work on road projects across Indiana.

This is the second time in two days that Kenley has crushed a top item on Pence's legislative agenda.

On Wednesday, Kenley replaced the governor's proposal for a preschool voucher program costing up to $30 million for 1,000 participants with a requirement that a legislative study committee review the issue this summer.

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