Voters expect to hear promises and pledges made in the heat of a spirited campaign, but they also should expect some assurance that each is made with due diligence.
By that measure, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pences 10 percent income-tax cut plan comes up short. He offers no details on how to pay for the tax cut and no evidence that hes studied Indianas fiscal situation beyond an enthusiastic embrace of its current surplus.
I believe strongly that when government has too much money, it needs to return that money to taxpayers who first earned it, Pence said in announcing the proposed cut. Thanks to Gov. (Mitch) Daniels, we are in such a positive fiscal condition that we can afford to do that on a permanent basis.
The congressman wants to cut Indianas 3.4 percent individual income tax rate to 3.06 percent by fiscal year 2015. While it amounts to about $228 a year for a family of four, it would cost the state $533 million in annual revenue.
Its a tremendous leap to believe Indiana has a surplus because it collected taxes it doesnt need. Aside from the fact that major accounting errors cast some doubt on how much extra money the state actually has, a good portion of the surplus comes from budget reversions – money allocated by the General Assembly but handed back by state agencies. In the 2011 fiscal year alone, that includes more than $104 million earmarked for child protection services, $212 million for the Family and Social Services Administration and $325 million for the Department of Education.
Pences plan ignores some real budget needs. In her role as president of the Association of Indiana Counties, Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown points to the serious shortfall in fuel-tax revenues and the effect its having on road construction and maintenance (see Page 5A). Brown notes that the state diverts $144 million a year in those revenues to the state police, Bureau of Motor Vehicles and other programs.
Wouldnt it make sense to at least conside
r paying for those programs out of the general fund budget and reserving those fuel-tax dollars for badly needed road repairs?
Brown is among the elected officials who have seen the effects of budget shortfalls firsthand. So have lawmakers, who were understandably cool to Pences proposal.
After two years of not having enough money at the state level to fund various levels of education, I would personally like to look at keeping our taxes level and being able to fund several programs we have talked about in education, including partial funding of preschool, said Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City.
Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, wisely notes that gambling revenues – a major source of state funding – have been declining and the state hasnt seen a revenue forecast for the next two years.
Coincidentally, Pences predecessor – Sixth District Rep. David McIntosh – offered a bold tax cut proposal when he ran for governor 12 years ago. Voters werent swayed by his pledge to deliver a 25 percent-guaranteed property tax cut and re-elected Frank OBannon, no doubt in part because McIntoshs pledge lacked the same sort of detail Pences proposal is lacking.
In the months before Election Day, candidates for governor – Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham – have plenty of time to fill in the blanks on their proposals, but voters should insist those blanks are filled before they support plans that appear more political than pragmatic.