RICH JAMES: Legislature rejecting Pence's wish list

2014-02-26T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Legislature rejecting Pence's wish listBy Rich James nwitimes.com
February 26, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly and Gov. Mike Pence aren’t on the same page.

Shoot, they aren’t even reading the same book.

If Democrats think they are getting the short end of the stick this session, they might ask to borrow Pence’s crying towel.

The governor has been battered by his own party at every turn.

What’s surprising is that Pence continues to turn the other cheek.

Consider that with just a couple weeks left in the legislative session, the governor’s top priority – elimination of the personal property tax on business – remains in limbo.

Instead of elimination of the tax, some legislators have proposed a reduction in the business income tax.

And because the business personal property tax – which amounts to about $1 billion annually – goes to fund local government, elected officials across the state have railed against Pence’s proposal.

The governor had two other priorities whacked just days apart last week.

The Senate Education Committee gutted Pence’s plan to establish a preschool voucher program for up to 1,000 low-income 4-year-olds in five to be determined counties.

That bill was rewritten by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, to create a commission to study how to best implement a preschool program in this state.

Kenley made the changes because he is bothered by Pence’s plan to create the pilot program this year but wait until next year to fund it.

And just a day after preschool took a punch, Kenley ripped into another of the governor’s priorities.

Pence had the General Assembly set aside $400 million last year for long-term road construction projects.

At the behest of Kenley, Republicans cut that in half and suggested the other $200 million go to the general fund to make up for revenue shortfalls, which could eliminate the need for additional budget cuts.

The lower than anticipated income led Pence to cut $172 million in planned spending last year.

While the business tax, preschool and highway funding are on life-support, the marriage amendment appears headed for divorce court.

Pence badly wanted Hoosiers to vote this fall on a proposal to put a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.

Before Hoosiers can vote on a referendum, the proposed constitutional amendment has to be approved by two separate sessions of the legislature. And that proposal would have to contain the same wording each time.

Well, the wording was changed this year, meaning that there will have to be a second vote on the new language in 2015 or 2016. That would set up 2016 as the earliest referendum date.

With the session winding to a close, Pence is on the verge of suffering a major legislative embarrassment.

That’s not terribly good for someone still harboring thoughts about running for president.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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