Governor Mike Pence’s 2014 legislative agenda is full of proposals that would increase spending while curtailing state tax revenue, heading into a non-budget session of the General Assembly. That agenda includes a phase-out of the state’s business personal property tax.
While speaking on a panel just a short time before Governor Pence unveiled his legislative agenda, House Ways and Means chair Tim Brown said the message of the upcoming session is, “No opening of the budget.” Yet Pence’s 2014 Roadmap includes several proposals that will either require new state spending or weaken the flow of revenue into state coffers.
Pence says his philosophy is that a rising tide lifts all boats.
“We’ve seen unemployment drop in the state of Indiana. More than 21 thousand jobs have been added since we took office in the last ten months. So continuing to promote policies that will encourage investment and jobs will also impact the resources that the state of Indiana has,” Pence said.
A prime example of this philosophy is Pence’s proposal to phase out the business personal property tax. Eliminating that tax would cut off about a billion dollars to local communities. But Pence calls it a disadvantage in the state’s competition for jobs and investment. And he says he will discuss with the legislature ways to replace the money local communities will lose.
Pence is also proposing a pre-K voucher program, saying the time has come to provide access to pre-kindergarten education for all disadvantaged Hoosier children.
House Republicans proposed a preschool pilot program last session that would have laid the groundwork for an expansive pre-K voucher program. Senate Republicans dramatically curtailed the plan, citing concerns about cost. The governor says he’s now throwing his weight behind significant preschool funding.
“As a result of a lack of quality early educational opportunities, children – especially those from low-income households – often are unprepared when they enter kindergarten,” Pence said.
Pence’s proposal would provide vouchers to families who make up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which for a family of four is nearly 43 thousand dollars. The vouchers would be for either a public or private program. Pence says he doesn’t have specifics yet as to how much the program would cost. While legislative leaders from both parties have cited early childhood education as a major focus of the upcoming session, they say cost will likely create the most debate.