Pence "very disappointed" with Indiana budget proposal


There is an old analogy in politics. When you're campaigning, you are eating the enemy. When you are governing, you're eating each other.

We are a little over one month into a new administration and we already have a prime example.

He campaigned on it and he's lobbied for it, but he may not get it. Governor Mike Pence wants a 10-percent cut in the state's income tax. He wants Indiana to be better positioned to compete for business and he believes having the lowest income tax rate in the Midwest is the way to do it.

But his own party opted for increases in education and transportation instead. Eyewitness News asked House Ways and Means Chairman Representative Tim Brown about that outside his office Friday morning.

"Did you talk to the governor about that?"

"The governor and his staff aware the income tax is not in the House Budget but again, we will continue to have discussions and debate and priority decisions made," said Rep. Brown.

Rep. Brown outlined the House GOP's roughly $30 billion budget Friday. That plan tops Gov. Mike Pence's budget by more than $1 billion.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma says most of the new money would go toward restoring education cuts made during the recession and paying for road construction and repairs. The budget also speeds the phase-out of the state inheritance tax.

It didn't take long for good news to spread. At least that is the hope of most Indiana public high schools. Will the $344 million that was cut from the state's education budget during the Daniels administration truly be reinvested in pubic education? The hope is that it will.

Speedway Superintendent Ken Hull had a relatively quiet day Friday, since it was a professional day for teachers. But he did hear the news out of the Statehouse.

"If it made it all the way through, this could be restoration of all that was lost and perhaps more," said Hull.

Hull says it would be restoration of prior cuts and that would give public schools something they have lost in recent years. Financial stability, Hull says, to retain teachers, continue programs and maintain class size.

"We must look at that in context and remember when a reduction was made years ago that was very similar to this. That was disappointing. This kind of finally helps to make students whole in Indiana," he said.

Governor Pence's office was closed today for an off sight staff meeting but he did issue a lengthy statement saying, "I am very disappointed in the House budget proposal. Despite having the largest budget surplus in history, the House budget increases spending without giving hardworking Hoosiers one cent of new tax relief."

Minority House Democrats, sensing a split within the majority, guaranteed a vote on the governor's proposal on the House floor. Rep. Scott Pelath, who serves as minority leader, said, "The House of Representatives is going to have an up or down vote on Governor Pence's tax cut proposal. We are going to ensure that is going to happen. Some Democrats are going to support it."

Sitting in his office Friday morning, Pelath added, "We have not heard a lot of bold ideas either from the governor's office or the two super majorities. This is the one bold idea to be brought forward. I think to ignore it is a mistake."

It wasn't that long ago when Governor Pence remarked in his office that he was not legislator in chief. He would hold his remarks until bills would reach his desk. It appears one month in, that he might want to rethink that.

Governor's office shut down Friday

Gov. Pence's Statehouse office was shut down for the day while his staff is meeting "out of office."

A sign posted on the door of the governor's office Friday reads "Our office will be closed Friday February 15th for out of office staff meetings."

The lights were out and none of the dozens of staffers who normally work in the office appeared to be inside.

A Pence spokeswoman did not immediately return an email or phone call seeking an explanation Friday morning. Friday is neither a state nor federal holiday and most other Statehouse employees showed up to work.

Additional remarks from Gov. Pence:

"Indiana can fund our priorities including increases for roads and schools and reduce the personal income tax. Since we can reduce taxes on every Hoosier, we should.

"By leaving income tax relief out this early in the process, this House budget proposal does not contain the kind of balanced approach that will create jobs and opportunities for Hoosiers. With so many hurting in this economy, Hoosiers deserve better.

"Indiana recently cut taxes for businesses and estates. It's time for average Hoosiers to get a break.

"And income tax relief will create jobs. By allowing small businesses to keep more of what they make, we will make Indiana more attractive for investment. Our state is in a race for jobs with states across the country, many of which are reducing and reforming income taxes. Not only can we in Indiana afford to offer tax relief, we can't afford not to.

"If we stand still, Indiana will lose.

"It is still early in the legislative session. House leaders have committed to me that an income tax cut for middle class Hoosier families is still possible in this session. I take them at their word, and Hoosiers have my word. I will continue to fight to pass a balanced budget that meets our needs, funds our roads and schools, strengthens our reserves and lets hardworking Hoosiers keep more of what they earn."