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The Journal Gazette

  • Vice President Mike Pence speaks Friday at the Wylam Center of Flagship East in Anderson. (Associated Press)

Saturday, September 23, 2017 1:00 am

Pence visits state to talk taxes, health bill

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

ANDERSON – Vice President Mike Pence pitched a nonexistent tax reform bill Friday in the first of several administration visits meant to spur support for a major restructuring.

He stuck to broad strokes as there is no legislation filed – focusing on tax cuts that will create jobs – and directly imploring Democrat U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly to support a bipartisan plan.

“Sen. Donnelly, we need your help, too,” Pence said. “Joe, let's decide today we're going to get this tax cut done and we're going to get it done together.”

Donnelly was in the crowd of several hundred Hoosiers and a host of Republican politicians that came out to hear the vice president at an Anderson technology park.

Pence also gave a shoutout to several sitting U.S. Representatives in attendance – notably Todd Rokita, R-4th, and Luke Messer, R-6th, who are locked in a primary battle to try to unseat Donnelly.

In a statement released after the Anderson event, Donnelly said it was great to be with Pence and Hoosiers to discuss “reforming our country's tax code.”

“I believe that tax reform should benefit middle class and working families,” he said. “When the Administration releases its tax plan, I hope that it includes policies that create new jobs and protect existing ones, which is what I have discussed with the President and Vice President previously and proposed in my End Outsourcing Act.”

Donnelly generally touts himself as a moderate willing to work in a bipartisan fashion.

Republicans are still trying to craft a consensus tax plan, and remain divided on whether it should be revenue neutral or whether it can increase the federal deficit. That is why Democratic votes could be key.

Pence said he spoke with Hoosiers before the speech at a local restaurant and they crave a tax system that is simpler and allows them to pay less in federal taxes.

Generally he talked of lowering corporate taxes that “stifle America's job creators” and eliminating loopholes for the wealthy while making the tax system flatter and fairer for every American.

He promised President Donald Trump “is going to sign, before the end of this year, a tax cut that will put American workers and the American economy first.”

Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine attended the event and said it was intriguing to see Pence put public pressure on Donnelly – noting the loud cheers at that moment of the speech.

He said if Donnelly thinks he can score a few votes in 2018 from Republicans then he has to support Trump's push for tax reform.

Shine also liked the administration's focus on Indiana, as Pence also announced Trump himself will visit the state Wednesday.

“Indiana is literally the crossroads of America and the epicenter of the revitalization of the American economy in all 50 states,” he said. “It's appropriate to come to Indiana to set forth the goals.”

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said “if Vice President Pence wants to take a bipartisan approach that looks out for Hoosier families, he needs to engage lawmakers like Joe Donnelly, not just pay lip service to the idea. Awarding tax cuts to the corporations that offshore American jobs isn't the answer – he needs to make sure that tax reform puts middle-class families first. That's what Hoosiers demand.”

Before Pence got to taxes he spent time touting the Graham-Cassidy bill – the latest Senate effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

It would gut Medicaid expansion under former President Barack Obama and cost Indiana's Healthy Indiana Plan and traditional Medicaid program billions in the coming years.

But Pence said Obamacare, as it's known, hasn't lived up to its promise – resulting in less choice and higher rates on the individual market.

He said the latest effort – which could come up for a vote next week – would protect those with pre-existing conditions and give states like Indiana freedom and flexibility to control its own program through block grant funding.

“Hoosiers know the truth. Obamacare has failed and Obamacare must go,” Pence told the crowd while urging Congress to keep its word. “We cannot in good conscience abandon this cause.”

Democratic National Committee Midwest Press Secretary Mandy McClure said “if Pence really cares about the millions of Americans he serves, he should stop supporting this heartless Republican crusade and work towards bipartisan solutions that expand opportunities for all Americans.”