INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Republican Gov. Mike Pence held close to a carefully
scripted message for 2014 during his second State of the State address,
prodding lawmakers for a business tax cut and education items while asking
them to take action on a controversial marriage amendment this year.
Pence offered little in the way of new details Tuesday, sticking to what has
become a defining hands-off approach with lawmakers and his legislative
agenda. Instead, he asked them for a second year largely focused on
continuing the same strategy of cutting taxes and expanding sweeping
"We’ve made progress in jobs and schools, but with still too many Hoosiers
out of work,” Pence said. “With our state lagging behind in per capita
income and health and too many kids in underperforming schools, I believe we
must remain relentless, bold and ambitious to keep our state moving
Although Pence left a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage out of his
formal agenda, he asked lawmakers to put the issue to rest in 2014.
“Let’s have a debate worthy of our people with civility and respect. Let’s
protect the rights of Hoosier employers to hire who they want and provide
them with benefits that they earn. And then let’s resolve this issue this
year once and for all,” he said, to applause from the assembled lawmakers, a
majority of whom are Republicans.
Pence spoke before a joint session of House and Senate members held in the
House chamber. Just one day earlier in the same space, a key House panel
delayed a vote on the marriage amendment following hours of emotional
testimony on the issue.
Lawmakers first approved the proposed constitutional ban in 2011. It must
pass again this year to be put to voters in November. If lawmakers don’t
act, the process of amending the constitution would start from scratch.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Pence had a chance
to “douse the flames” on the gay marriage debate, but did not. Instead,
Pelath said, the governor seemed more concerned about protecting his
political career - noting the marriage issue could cloud his chances if it
shows up with him on a potential 2016 ballot.
“He wants finality before the 2016 election. That’s what he really means,”
Pelath criticized Pence for offering “small, symbolic solutions” to real
problems such as low wages and unemployment.
“Mike Pence believes a governor should do very little, and he’s succeeding,”
Pelath said after the speech. “His solutions are simply not equal to the
Pence asked lawmakers to support his plans to phase out the state’s business
personal property tax, expand charter schools, launch a new scholarship
program allowing low-income children to attend preschool and create a tax
credit to promote adoption.
The General Assembly’s top Republicans - House Speaker Brian Bosma and
Senate President Pro Tem David Long - sung the governor’s praises during a
news conference following the speech. Both oversee supermajorities of
Republicans in their respective chambers.
“It was confirmation for my team that we have a lot of the same goals,”
Bosma said. “Really all of us have the same goals. But we’re pointed in the
same direction on some of those solutions as well, with road funding and
focus on early childhood education, continued smart tax reform and worker
Pence made no direct mention of the tensions this past fall involving
Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, his office and the members of
the State Board of Education. Instead he thanked Ritz and the board members
and led a standing ovation for Ritz.
But in describing the state’s educational gains, he noted, “Working
together, we’ve accomplished a lot.”
He emphasized that cooperative spirit again as he closed with the story of
Nathan Woessner, a 6-year-old who was pulled safely from a Lake Michigan
sand dune last summer after hours of furious digging by roughly 140 people.
Pence noted that when he called the boy’s father at the hospital, Gary
Woessner referred to Nathan’s rescue as “everyone’s miracle.”
“We are strong people and good people, but we are never stronger than when
we work together,” he said.