Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

March 31, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Pence earns modest legislative achievements

Administration wasn't prepared for session, sources say

(Continued)

The buzz throughout the session was the Pence administration was not as prepared as it could have been for a second session. Most gave the new governor a pass in 2013 when he had to build an administration, create a legislative agenda and write a $30 billion biennial budget. But this session found the administration treading in similar waters. An influential state senator told me he was approached about carrying the governor’s education agenda in December. Questions to the administration on who was carrying the governor’s package went unanswered as 2013 rolled into 2014.

The contrast with the Daniels modus operandi is striking. Senate sources tell me Daniels’ legislative package began assemblage in late summer. It would be scored fiscally in early fall, and bill sponsors would be lined up in early to mid-fall. His legislative liaisons were conspicuous, vigorous and accessible. The Pence legislative liaisons, multiple members have told me, were late in developing legislation, unprepared for fiscal impacts, blew off meetings with legislators, gave little direction, and were largely missing in action.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma was asked about working with the Pence team. “The governor was very encouraging,” Bosma said. “The details were worked out by legislative leaders, but the governor was very encouraging on adoption of each of these initiatives. We kept him apprised at all times.”

So Daniels used massive amounts of political capital to push the multi-billion dollar Major Moves, and his internal polling showed his approval fell south of 40 percent (though he won re-election two years later with 58 percent of the vote). Pence pushed the important pre-K program in a non-budgetary year, with Republican fiscal leaders refusing to reopen the budget. He ended up with a five-county pilot program funded with tiny budget revisions.

His top priority — the repeal of the business personal property tax — essentially ended up in a blue ribbon study commission, while Senate Bill 1 gives counties the option to repeal the tax and larger counties the ability to provide “super abatements.” The governor emphasized the tax repeal, while Republican-dominated city and county governments resisted with the most cohesion displayed in decades. And when the dust settled, Senate President David Long was boasting about the corporate tax cut — the “linchpin” of the session’s tax policy — calling it “more important” with the potential for the “biggest dividends.”

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