Governor Speaks, Lawmakers Listen And React

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January 15, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence encouraged Indiana lawmakers to resolve the ongoing debate over marriage “once and for all” at his second State of the State address Tuesday.

House Joint Resolution 3 – if passed by the General Assembly and ratified by voters – would add an amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state.

Pence said the Indiana General Assembly should pass the resolution so voters can decide the fate of the amendment.

“For my part, I believe in traditional marriage, and I have long held the view that the people, rather than unelected judges, should decide matters of such great consequence to society,” Pence said.

His comments came shortly after a federal court ruled that a similar amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. That ruling comes one week after a similar ruling was made on a same-sex marriage ban in Utah.

Indiana Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said he the federal rulings should convince Hoosier lawmakers to wait to pass the amendment.

“So I remain opposed to the marriage amendment for many reasons, and I would hope that even those who support it may see wisdom in waiting on the outcome of some of these federal cases,” Clere said.

Thirty states already have similar amendments in their constitutions.

Pence also asked the General Assembly to pass legislation that would phase out the business personal property tax. He said the tax hinders businesses’ ability to grow by forcing them to pay a tax on any new equipment purchased.

“Taxing equipment and technology in a state that leads that nation in making and creating things just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Both the House and the Senate have already introduced plans to cut or eliminate the tax. Pence said he believes phasing out the tax would help spur economic development in Indiana.

The governor also said he wants to improve state roads to further encourage economic development.

“Because roads mean jobs, we need to release $400 million for the next era of highway expansion, and put people to work now,” Pence said. That’s money lawmakers set aside in the state budget last year for future road projects and some key fiscal leaders say they’re reluctant to spend it now.

Pence also said he thinks Indiana made the right decision for its economy when legislators chose not to adopt a Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Pence told lawmakers he believes the Healthy Indiana Plan is a better alternative to the “broken” Medicaid system.

“Traditional Medicaid is not a system we need to expand,” Pence said. “It’s a system we need to change. The Healthy Indiana Plan is the right place to start.”

Pence said his administration will continue to work with the federal government to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan.

Indiana legislators recently decided not to adopt the Common Core national education standards. Pence said the state decided “to take a time-out” on the standards because Hoosiers have “high expectations” of schools.

“When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana’s will be uncommonly high,” Pence said. “They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and will be among the best in the nation.”

Pence said 500 Indiana schools improved a full letter grade or more on the state’s grading scale this year. He said in order to continue improving the state’s education system, low-income families who want to send their children pre-school should be given vouchers to do so.

House Republicans announced last week that launching a pilot pre-school program that would send 1,000 children living in poverty to a high-quality pre-school would be on their agenda for the 2014 session.

“Let’s open the doors of opportunity to low-income families for pre-school education, for their future and ours,” Pence said.

Republicans said, in general, they were happy with the ideas the governor presented during the address.

“It seems like he’s open to discussion with the legislative body about the strategies that we use to get to his goals,” Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, said. “I think that’s a really good method to help us make some progress forward.

Democrats said they disagree.

“Mike Pence believes the governor should do very little,” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan, said. “And he is succeeding.”

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