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April 17, 2013

Latest state budget forecast may mean tax cuts

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is touting the latest state budget forecast as good news for his tax relief plan, but Republican legislators who control the purse strings aren’t ready to sign off on it yet.

House and Senate fiscal leaders said Tuesday that the April budget forecast they’ve been waiting on to finalize their two-year spending plan clears the way for about $500 million in tax cuts.

But they also said it’s unlikely that all of that will come through the permanent 10 percent cut in the income tax rate that Pence wants.

The April forecast estimates the state will bring in about $290 million more in revenue than what was forecasted in December — used to start the budget process. In a statement, Pence called the forecast “great news for Hoosiers” and a boost for his tax cut plan that legislators have been reluctant to embrace.

What Pence called evidence of “greater economic growth” but GOP fiscal leaders in the General Assembly are looking at it a little more cautiously.

They pointed out the forecast predicts a significant drop in revenues from both sales taxes and gaming taxes — two significant sources of money for the state budget. And they cited an economic forecast, delivered with the budget forecast, that predicted Indiana wouldn’t see its jobless rate drop below 8 percent until next year at the earliest.

“It shows there is a little sunshine in the valley and that’s a good sign,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley said. “I hope it’s true. It’s certainly not a robust forecast.”

Senate Tax and Policy Committee Chairman Brandt Hershman called the report “good news, served with a side of caution.”

“It’s always better to have a debate over money you have rather than over money you don’t have,” Hershman said. “But we need to make sure it’s going to be money that we’re going to have.”

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