Indiana News

Education, Tax Cuts Lead Pence's First State of the State Address


Governor Pence has used his State of the State address to throw his weight behind efforts to help low-income students attend preschool.


Pence left open the specifics of a state preschool effort. But he proclaimed his support for the school choice program enacted in 2011, and says making it possible for more pupils to attend preschool is the logical next step in that effort.

The governor revived his campaign-trail proposal for regional "works councils" to expand vocational education, a plan expected to receive bipartisan support. But he spent the bulk of his address making the case for his budget, including a 10-percent tax cut. He says he's shown the state can afford it while still funding its priorities. He notes the budget unveiled by administration officials last week increases school funding by one-percent and continues funding for full-day kindergarten.


Legislators in both parties have said they'd like to see more money earmarked for schools, to make up for cuts imposed under then-Governor Mitch Daniels during the recession. And Republican leaders have been skeptical of the tax cut. Pence says tax relief would cushion the blow of the expiration of the federal payroll tax holiday, and would provide a half-billion-dollar jolt to Indiana's economy.

Leaders in both parties generally praised what House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) dubbed Pence's "maiden voyage" State of the State address. Pelath and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) took issue with Pence's call to expand the school voucher program by eliminating a requirement that students spend at least one year in a public school first. And House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) affirmed they still need to be convinced that the tax cut is not only affordable, but the best policy approach to stimulating the economy.

But Bosma says he and Long are probably in agreement with 95-percent of the new governor's priorities. And Pelath says Pence is setting the right goals with pledges to create jobs, increase job skills, and help low-and-middle-income Hoosiers. He holds out the possibility Democrats will support the tax cut as a way to help the middle class, though he urges Pence to think beyond the tax code.


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