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February 19, 2013

Pence opposes House Republicans' budget plan

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is doubling down on his pledge to cut the state’s income tax, despite a call by House Republicans to spend more of the state’s $2 billion surplus on cash-strapped schools, crumbling infrastructure, and services for the needy.

The Republican governor issued a statement saying he was “very disappointed” with a House Republican budget proposal that excludes his plan to lower the individual income tax from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent, in favor of spending more dollars on education, road repairs, child protection, and worker training.

“Despite having the largest budget surplus in history, this House budget increases spending without giving hardworking Hoosiers one cent of new tax relief,” Pence said.

The budget proposal that prompted Pence’s complaint was unveiled by the chief budget maker in the House: Republican Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown of Crawfordsville, who said the plan “honors the commitments” made by the General Assembly to restore funding for critical services that had been cut in the past.

The $30 billion, two-year budget plan includes about $1 billion more in spending than Pence’s proposed budget. The GOP House plan would boost spending on K-12 schools by $344 million — about $63 million more per year for schools than what Pence has proposed — to bring it to an all-time high of $6.7 billion.

It adds $500 million for infrastructure by directing more gas-tax revenues to local governments for road and bridge repair. It also adds $40 million a year in new funding for the Department of Child Services, and $33 million over two years for workforce development. It also puts $300 million back into an education reserve fund that was raided after the 2008 recession.

“We’ve talked about strategic restoration,” Brown told reporters during a briefing on the budget plan, in which he emphasized the need to spend more dollars on education, including an added $108 million for higher education. “We want to invest in education because we know an educated society is very important to move forward for jobs.”

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