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Indiana House chief: OK on gay marriage ban likely, but no guarantee on tax cuts

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 6:34 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Tax cuts being pushed by gubernatorial candidates are hardly guaranteed a rubber stamp from lawmakers, and a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage could win quick approval next year, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday as he rolled out his caucus's 2013 agenda.

Republican Mike Pence has called for cutting the personal income tax by 10 percent, and Democrat John Gregg has called for removing the sales tax on gasoline and abolishing the corporate income tax for Indiana-based companies.

But Bosma cautioned that the state had already committed to eliminating the inheritance tax and any new cut would have to consider the long-term implications for the state, not the short-term popularity of campaign promises.

"I stopped the last governor from raising taxes, which he felt from a short-term view needed to happen, but we were convinced the state could get through two budget cycles without a tax increase and that's the way it turned out. And I've been thanked a couple of times," Bosma said of Gov. Mitch Daniels' effort to raise the income tax on high-earners when he first took office.

Bosma also said Thursday he "wouldn't be shocked" if lawmakers sign off on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage next year. An affirmative vote by the Legislature would place the issue before voters in 2014. Indiana already defines marriage as between one man and one woman, but supporters argue it would further cement the law by inscribing it in the state's constitution.

The House Republican agenda generally calls for increasing school access — something Bosma said could include expanding access to school vouchers — and improving vocational training.

Bosma gestured to signs behind him that read "Education" and "Jobs" and said, "If we're not talking about these two issues, I guess the question is 'Are we on things that are important for the future?' "

But he declined to take social issues off the table for 2013, saying he would respect the will of his members. Such issues, including defunding Planned Parenthood and revoking specialty license plates for an Indianapolis gay youth group, have increasingly pushed aside fiscal issues in the Statehouse. Senate Republicans also worked this year on a measure to teach creationism in public schools and are expected to consider a similar measure in 2013.

Rep. Scott Pelath, Michigan City Democrat, said social issues will be front and center next year, despite their absence from the written agenda.

"The translation is he has chairmen that will not be able to help themselves and he will not stand in their way," Pelath said of Bosma.

The House Republicans' presentation followed shortly after Daniels announced Thursday the state would be paying in $360 billion into various public employee pension funds.

Daniels said Thursday that $207 million will be invested in teacher pensions, along with $90 million toward judges' pensions and $32 million for police pensions. The state closed its latest budget with roughly $2.2 billion in cash reserves. The state's automatic taxpayer refund mandates that $720 million of that money be split between returns to taxpayers and state pension funds.

Daniels dismissed concerns about the teachers' fund Thursday, but Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, a Noblesville Republican, noted the problem will easily cost the state billions of dollars.

State pension officials told lawmakers this year the teacher pension payouts could begin costing the state $1 billion a year in about a decade. State Budget Director Adam Horst noted Thursday the state already pays roughly $750 million annually to teachers hired before 1996 and is well-positioned to handle future increases.