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Pence reiterates call for ending tax

Offers no details on reaching goals

– If Gov. Mike Pence has a plan for how to eliminate the business personal property tax, he’s not sharing.

During a meeting with reporters Friday, he reiterated the goal of phasing out the tax on business machinery and equipment but would give no details on how.

Pence repeatedly said he doesn’t want to prejudice the legislative process.

But he noted that in private meetings with legislators options are being exchanged both ways.

“I don’t begrudge anybody an interest in detail, but I do think it’s important that we allow the broadest range of debate on these issues,” Pence said.

The business personal property tax provides $1 billion annually in revenue to local governments and schools. As a result, any elimination or phase-out is particularly sensitive.

Pence said he doesn’t want to harm local units and calls the proposal “tax reform” – not a tax cut.

Asked if that meant a shift to individuals, he stressed how hard he worked to reduce the state income tax in the last session.

“This is a business tax,” Pence said. “I fought pretty hard to lower income taxes in Indiana, and I want to make sure we continue to keep income taxes low across this state on individuals.”

He added that “making sure our communities have the resources by some other means over that timeframe is an extremely important part of this debate.”

Some suggestions have included making it an option for individual counties to eliminate the tax or allowing local units to raise the local income tax to cover the losses. Also, a replacement business tax of some kind is an option.

Pence also declined to give details on several education proposals.

He supports prekindergarten vouchers for Indiana’s low-income families and said it’s best to craft the program this year and then add funding in 2015 when lawmakers are creating a new two-year state budget.

Pence also stressed a new fund to encourage teacher innovation, as well as a state program possibly paying the difference in salaries for teachers who choose to go to charter schools or underperforming traditional public schools.

Pence said his staff has “run a calculator” on the latter and it’s “very manageable” but he refused to give an estimate of the program cost.

He said executive leadership starts with casting a vision for where the state ought to go, then giving the legislature wide latitude to make it happen.

nkelly@jg.net

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