Gov. Mike Pence refused to rule out county income tax hikes as a replacement for the more than $1 billion Indiana schools and local governments stand to lose if he succeeds in eliminating the business personal property tax.
The Republican, who spent his first months in office fighting to reduce the state income tax rate, told reporters Wednesday that terminating property taxes on business and manufacturing equipment is the top item on his tax reform agenda, but he will leave the details to the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Pence repeatedly dodged follow-up questions asking if he'd accept a plan that calls for higher local income taxes if it meant eliminating the business personal property tax.
"I don't want to prejudge that debate; I want to be open to ideas in the legislative process," Pence said. "There's ... different kinds of taxes that could replace that, that wouldn't be such a barrier to economic growth."
The governor claims Indiana's business personal property tax — which produces 17.5 percent of Lake County's property tax revenue and 13.4 percent of Porter County's — discourages businesses from locating in the state, despite Indiana's otherwise top-rated business tax climate.
"I think most people know that the business personal property tax is a barrier to the kind of investment that creates jobs in Indiana," Pence said. "How we go about phasing that out is a subject of an important discussion in the state of Indiana, and I look forward to having that with people across the state and with their elected representatives in the upcoming session."Pence's public positions are completely at odds with his incessant rhetoric about being an advocate for the middle class. To the contrary, his policies seem to be at war with the middle class. His refusal to set up a state health care exchange to implement the federal Affordable Care Act and his support of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Greg Zoeller to render those Hoosiers who choose to enroll through the federal health care exchange set up in place of a state-run exchange for insurance coverage ineligible from receiving any subsidies they may qualify for under the federal law smacks at mean-spiritedness. Middle class Hoosiers are frightened to death for their economic well-being and Pence seems only concerned about doing whatever he can to pass out tax breaks and tax giveaways to businesses. His support of the $100 million tax giveaway to the Hulman-George family for its Indianapolis Motor Speedway against this backdrop drives the needle in deeper into an already raw nerve. Hell, he even provided a public subsidy for a daily flight service from Indianapolis to San Francisco for the benefit a single company in Indianapolis that has already received millions of dollars in state tax breaks. If this is what he defines as conservatism, count me out.