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January 22, 2013

Gov. Pence explains vision for Indiana in speech

INDIANAPOLIS — 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 was highlighting 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 in prepared remarks.

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.

Pence was highlighting the story of the Rodney and Melita Davis family of Indianapolis, whose daughter attends the Trader 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. 

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