INDIANAPOLIS — The intraparty fight over Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s controversial tax cut proposal is escalating.
At a press conference at the Statehouse on Thursday, a conservative Tea Party organization founded by the billionaire Koch brothers announced it was pouring money into a statewide campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers into giving Pence what he wants: a 10 percent cut in the state income tax rate.
Chase Downham, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said his organization will spend a “six figure” amount on TV, radio and online ad buys, in an attempt to get voters to turn up the heat on GOP legislators who’ve rejected the Pence plan.
“We believe this tax cut is absolutely critical,” Downham said.
The organization, founded and funded by Charles and David Koch, has spent millions of dollars trying to defeat Democrat candidates; it will now be spending its money going after the Republicans who control the Indiana General Assembly.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma defended the House budget bill that rejects Pence’s proposed cut, which would cost the state about $500 million in revenues each year. The House plan, crafted by GOP legislators, instead spends that money on schools and road repairs.
Bosma, who’s been an ally of the Americans for Prosperity in the past, said he wouldn’t be pressured into backing off what he sees as critical investments for the state’s long-term economic health.
“You’re looking at a guy who’s had death threats, people camped on my front door …” Bosma said, referring to a past fight over the contentious “right-to-work” bill passed last year. “So my focus will be on making the right decisions for the state of Indiana.”
Bosma said he and Senate leaders are still open to considering the tax cut if the state’s revenue forecast, due in April, projects significantly more revenues. But he also took a veiled dig at Pence, who made the tax cut his signature campaign promise last year without consulting Republican legislative leaders.