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Pence to push simpler taxes on ’15 agenda

– While hosting a tax simplification conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence signaled that he will push major tax changes as part of the 2015 legislative session.

“What I hear emerging from a broad array of experts is that simplifying our tax code, finding a way to ease compliance, … is also a pathway toward growth and opportunity,” he said.

“We’re not settled on any one particular proposal. It’s summertime. We’ve got a lot of months before the session comes up. Today’s summit was meant to be a bit of an idea factory.”

Pence clarified he is not talking about raising or lowering taxes but making the state tax system – which consists of sales, income, corporate and a host of smaller taxes – easier to understand, more fair and less burdensome to file.

He pointed out that since 1993 Indiana’s individual income tax form has jumped from two pages to 10 and the tax instruction booklets from 28 pages to 60.

“Now we must make a giant leap to simplify and streamline Indiana’s tax code so that it becomes the best in the country,” Pence said.

The conference included two special presentations and seven panels the involved both state and national tax experts.

Although the governor didn’t want to talk about specific ideas, keynote speaker Arthur Laffer, chairman of the Laffer Center at the Pacific Research Institute, talked about how detrimental the income tax is.

He said all 11 states, including Indiana, that adopted the income tax in the last 50 years have declined as a share of the overall U.S. economy.

Laffer said Indiana must get rid of all the loopholes, including deductions, exemptions and credits, to make a difference.

“Get it down to a low rate, broad-based flat tax and then get the hell out of the way,” he said.

And Pence added in his speech that tax carve-outs distort the flow of capital and labor and put government in the position of picking winners and losers.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said that as Senate Appropriations chairman he thinks about taxes and revenue all year and thinks lawmakers have been diligent about covering some of this ground already.

“I don’t see any public uprising. I’m taking that as a sign that the public feels comfortable with a lot of things Indiana does and has done,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City panned the conference as not being a diverse look at the issue.

“Notably absent from these proceedings is anyone representing working people or working families trying to get into the middle class,” he said. “Looking at the roster of participants, I’m not sure anyone should be surprised that the middle class has been left out.

“It’s far better for them to lecture others than to get out into neighborhoods and communities to see the impact of their policies.”