INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence used his first State of the State
address Tuesday night to lobby for a personal income tax cut, an expansion
of Indiana’s school voucher system and improved vocational training.
The new Republican governor highlighted the stories of three families he
said showed the need to expand Indiana’s 2011 schools overhaul, improve
veterans services and refocus the state’s education and business communities
on the vocational training.
“We can put Hoosiers back to work and make Indiana first — first in job
creation, first in education and first in quality of life,” he said.
Pence, who took office last week, offered little new in terms of what he
will seek in his first year in office, instead using his speech before a
joint session of the Indiana House and Senate to lobby for an austere state
budget built around a 10 percent cut in the state’s personal income tax.
That would reduce the income tax rate from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent.
Pence was firm about the potential loss of $500 million a year in tax
revenue. “Let’s be honest with our fellow Hoosiers: We can afford to do
this,” he said.
The GOP holds overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.
Republican leaders, however, have expressed skepticism at the idea of
putting a tax cut ahead of school spending following years of education
cuts. They are more likely to welcome Pence’s call for expanded school
vouchers and new jobs training.
Democratic leaders praised Pence for his speech and thanked him for
including some of their priorities in his first-year agenda, including a
promise to send more state contracts to veteran-owned businesses. But they
said they expected more from him, specifically on how he would create jobs.
“I think what I was looking for in the speech is what exactly are going to
be the details in reaching (solutions to) those problems that we are dealing
with as Hoosiers,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. “I
think I was hoping for a bit more of a bolder approach in terms of ideas and
resources to really empower workers to bridge that skills gap.”
The audience of lawmakers, state officials, lobbyists and Pence’s family
applauded the governor more than 25 times, standing five times as they saved
some of their heartiest plaudits for the three Hoosier families Pence picked
to highlight his priorities.
Pence highlighted the story of the Rodney and Melita Davis family of
Indianapolis, whose daughter attends the Trader’s Point Christian Academy,
in backing a continuation of what is already the country’s largest private
school voucher program. Pence called for the state to expand vouchers to
military and foster families, along with special needs children.
“I have long believed that parents should be able to choose where their
children go to school, regardless of their income.” Pence said. “We must
continue to expand educational opportunities, especially for those with the
Pence pointed to Bill Beach, owner of New Albany-based Beach Mold and Tool,
as one reason to reinvest in vocational training for high school students.
Pence said Beach’s father told him as a teenager that his brother would go
to college while he would go to a vocational school since he was good
working with his hands. Beach started his company is 1972 and it now has
about 600 workers.
The governor called for creating regional councils that would work with
businesses and educators to tailor high school vocational programs to
“Career and technical education can provide our students with a pathway to
success, just as it did for Bill,” Pence said. “It can launch entrepreneurs,
give kids a reason to finish high school, and create a well-qualified
workforce that will encourage business to build here and grow here.”
Pence said former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and legislative leaders left
the state in strong shape and that Indiana stands out “as a beacon of fiscal
He also pointed to ongoing challenges, including the state’s 8 percent
unemployment rate that has about 250,000 people out of work, and he called
the Indiana’s 20 percent poverty rate for children “unacceptable.”
Pence cut some sections of his prepared remarks dealing with school safety
in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre and some sharp jabs at the
federal government that invoked his political hero, Ronald Reagan. He said
afterward he knew he was cutting it close to the 30-minute broadcast window
allotted governors for their annual speech. “I looked up and I think it was
about 27 after, and I said they’re not going to let me get into ‘Jeopardy,’”
INDIANAPOLIS — The top Democrats in the Indiana Legislature say Republican
Gov. Mike Pence isn’t being bold enough in his proposals to help the state’s
economy and is rushing too quickly to expand the private school voucher
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson says Pence properly laid out
the challenge of a million Indiana residents with inadequate job skills
during his State of the State speech Tuesday night. But Lanane says the $18
million Pence proposed for job training isn’t enough to fix the problem.
Pence called for expansion of the school voucher system, which House
Minority Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City says is still unproven since
it’s only in its second year. Pelath says voters want the state to slow down
on school changes. “Before plunging Indiana’s schools completely into a Wall
Street-style system of boom and bust, the Governor should critically analyze
the still unseen effects of school privatization,” he said.
Responding to Pence’s call for an income tax cut Pelath said “the Governor’s
calls for an income tax cut deserve the Legislature’s fair consideration. In
turn, the Governor must make a strong case that it will truly spur new jobs
for the middle class and people trying to get into the middle class.
Otherwise, the Governor must remain mindful Hoosiers are under many
pressures, and we cannot neglect the revenue that pays for safe streets,
smaller classrooms, and healthier families.”