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A timely reminder on candidates' tax-cut proposals

Monday, October 8, 2012 - 8:31 am

There is a spending side to the debate that we can't forget.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma last week reminded Indiana's gubernatorial candidates of something they sometimes act as if they have forgotten: They are not the only dogs in the hunt. Tax cuts being pushed by Republican Mike Pence and Democrat John Gregg “are not guaranteed” a rubber stamp from lawmakers, he said after his GOP House caucus rolled out its 2013 agenda.

“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.

This time around, Pence has called for cutting the personal income tax by 10 percent, and Gregg says he would remove the sales tax on gasoline and abolish the corporate income tax for Indiana-based companies. But Bosma correctly points out that the state has already committed to eliminating the inheritance tax, and any new tax cut would have to consider the long-term implications for the state, “not just the short-term popularity” of campaign promises.

Bosma's words are a good reminder for voters, too. It's easy for a candidate to make promises, especially when he knows it's something voters want to hear. But it's the legislative branch that actually gets things done, and “checks and balances” tend to outweigh executive intent.

What Bosma is talking about is to make sure tax cuts are “paid for,” which unfortunately creates the impression that it's the state's money being played with rather than taxpayers' money, so we have a lot of sympathy for the proposals by both gubernatorial candidates. But there is a taxing side and a spending side to every budget decision, and the primary consideration should always be whether a particular government program or service is actually needed.

Also in 2013, Bosma said, he won't take social issues, which lately have been pushed aside by fiscal concerns, off the table. If such things are the will of the members, he said, he won't stand in their way. Possibilities include voting to put the gay-marriage ban in the state constitution, teach creationism in public schools and defund Planned Parenthood. Should be an interesting year.

We'd urge caution on the social agenda. The “fiscal issues” are hardly resolved. The caucus plans to focus mainly on education and jobs, and given the state of the economy those are good choices.