INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana lawmakers have ended their 2014 session, sending business tax cuts,
a preschool program, new roads funding and a series of other measures to
Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.
the session in January, pitching headlong into an emotional debate on gay
marriage, but left on a much quieter note late Thursday night. Republican
legislative leaders managed to push through an agenda that Pence had signed
onto, but not without extensive negotiations and some concerns raised about
their impact on the state budget.
The focus will turn
shortly to Pence, as he considers what measures to sign. He has not said
whether he will veto any measures, although the governor’s veto carries
little direct power because it can be overridden by a simple majority of
“I’m very proud of
the members here - Republican and Democrat, House and Senate,” said House
Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, shortly after gaveling the session to a
close. “They worked hard. They brought this home despite the predictions
that we’d get sidetracked.”
Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, had a sharply different view of the
past two months at the Statehouse.
“When the true
standard for creativity is set in trying to explain to the people of Indiana
that many things have been done on their behalf these past two and a half
months - as the governor and the leaders of his super-majorities have tried
to do today - you know that the bar of accomplishment is very low,” Pelath
said in a statement.
The session’s end
was a marked departure from its beginning, when emotional debates over a
proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage divided lawmakers and
brought hundreds of activists to the Statehouse on a regular basis.
opponents won a surprising victory last month when lawmakers removed
language about civil unions from the amendment, forcing them to start the
process anew. That means the soonest the issue could appear on a ballot is
The marriage battle
also led to some political fallout. Senate Republican leaders stripped Sen.
Mike Delph, R-Carmel, of his leadership posts and moved his Senate seat next
to the Democrats in the chamber after he criticized their handling of the
And Bosma announced
he had been offered “unlimited campaign funds” to make the marriage ban “go
away” this session. But the Republican donor who offered the help, former
Republican Party Chairman Jim Kittle, roundly disputed Bosma’s claims.
By the end of last
month, however, the focus had turned back to issues most lawmakers were more
interested in addressing, including education and taxes.
Republican leaders announced an agreement late Wednesday under which the
state would potentially release $400 million for transportation projects
this year. The state would also rely on $10 million from budget cuts and $5
million in private donations to launch a preschool program for children from
Bosma said he
believes the state could use the $400 million to leverage up to $2.4 billion
for highway projects - including additional lanes for Interstates 65, 69 and
70 - through federal funding. The first $200 million would be given to the
Indiana Department of Transportation immediately, but the second half would
only be released after legislators receive an update of the state’s finances
The business tax
package calls for cutting the corporate income tax and state banking tax to
4.9 percent. It also would let local governments decide whether to cut the
business equipment tax.
sought to eliminate the state’s tax on business equipment, but local leaders
opposed the measure because the tax provides critical revenues.
Supporters said the
cuts were crucial to helping Indiana compete with other states for new
businesses. But Democrats opposing the cuts said lawmakers will have to come
back next year and begin cutting critical services such as education and
Sen. Karen Tallian,
D-Portage, pointed to a legislative analysis that determined the cuts would
drain $145 million from state coffers once fully implemented.
“You will be faced
with declining revenue and increase demands and you will have to decide what
Indiana services are we going to give up? Roads? Education? Job training?”
agreed to pitch in $10 million in state budget cuts and federal funds to pay
for a preschool pilot program that Pence has long sought.
low-income families in five Indiana counties would be eligible for the
program, which also banks on $5 million in private sector funds. Families
earning up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level - a little less than
$30,000 for a family of four - would qualify.
The final bill
passed by the General Assembly is a diluted version of Pence’s original
request to serve 40,000 low-income children across the state. Lawmakers
shied from the more expansive plan in face of potential budget shortfalls.
“It took us months
to come up with a very small program and until today it’s hung by a thread
to have even that happen,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis. “Nobody
should be beating their chest on either side of this place about this very
An overhaul of the
state’s criminal sentencing law passed the Legislature Thursday after more
than five years of negotiations. It is the first major revision of the
state’s criminal code in more than three decades.
Supporters say the
revamped system will dish out harsher penalties for the worst offenders and
place nonviolent criminals in more appropriate correction facilities.
In the session’s
waning minutes, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill allowing parents to
keep guns in their cars in school parking lots. But measures to extend a
nursing home construction moratorium and drug test some welfare recipients
both failed to find enough support.