Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday continued to call for a 10 percent reduction in personal income tax rates, even as that proposal has seemingly stalled in the General Assembly.
Pence made his comments in Decatur as the guest speaker at the weekly meeting of the Decatur Rotary Club.
Pointing to the "largest budget surplus in the state's history," the governor said his budget plan includes increases for education and highway spending "and is still able to provide tax relief" to Hoosier families.
Pence campaigned heavily on the tax cut, which would cost roughly $500 million a year once phased in. But House Republicans earlier this week advanced a biennial budget that does not include Pence's tax cut plan, and the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee has thus far declined to vote on his proposal.
"With federal taxes going up, I believe that if we can lower the tax burden on Hoosiers we should seize upon it," Pence told the local Rotarians. "Lowering the personal income tax rate would reduce the burden on small businesses, who are the real job creators. If we lower the personal income tax, Indiana will be the lowest tax state in the Midwest. It's about competitiveness, it's about jobs, it's about opportunities and it's about growth."
Pence conceded that, despite an estimated $500 million state surplus, Indiana still finds itself in "difficult times."
"With a quarter of a million Hoosiers out of work, some schools that are lagging behind and 20 percent of our children living in poverty, we have no choice but to remain bold and optimistic," Pence said. "Government does not create jobs, but it does create the conditions that foster job creation. We must show fiscal discipline and fund our priorities."
The first-term governor who served 12 years in Congress called for a host of educational reforms, some of which are currently winding their way through the General Assembly.
"We cannot have success in the market place if we don't succeed in the classroom," Pence said. "I believe that nothing ails education that can't be fixed."
The governor called for increased flexibility for classroom teachers and a halt to "the endless barrage" of proficiency tests to which students and teachers alike are exposed. Pence also said college must be made more affordable, and called for career and vocational education to become a priority in Indiana schools.
"But if Indiana is going to seize the moment, it's going to take all of us," the governor concluded.
"Whatever you can do — do it. Do your part, and I promise we'll do ours. Let's get to work."