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Area lawmakers like what they heard in State of the State address

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gov. Mike Pence delivered his first State of the State Address on Tuesday night.

He called for lawmakers to approve a 10 percent across-the-board personal income tax cut for all Hoosiers for the next two years; increase funding for roads, bridges and infrastructure; increase money for education, expanded school vouchers, more emphasis on vocational education training; and add $35 million in additional money for the Department of Child Services.

Pence stressed economic development by saying, "Let's be clear: Government doesn't create jobs, other than government jobs, but government can create the conditions where people can be the risk takers, innovators, and workers who will create the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow."

Pence said his proposed budget will hold the line on spending and create no tax increases.

"Our budget proposes an increase in funding for education, including full-day kindergarten, and fully funds teacher pensions each of the next two years. As a result, education represents 64 percent of all state expenditures," he said in an Associated Press story. "In addition, we provide $18 million over two years to ensure that all Hoosier workers have the skills to find a job in today's economy."

The governor proposed to add $347 million in excess reserves to roads, bridges, and infrastructure.

He also called for a partnership in the life sciences industries and universities to spur research and produce high-paying jobs.

The governor also proposed to increase funding for schools each of the next two years, with the second year based on school performance and an additional $6 million in teacher excellence grants to increase pay for high-performing teachers.

Pence said there will be an emphasis on vocational education training and proposed creation of Regional Works Councils to work with businesses and educators to develop regional, demand-driven curricula to bring high-paying career options to more Hoosiers in high school.

District 62 State Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) was in the audience to hear Pence's remarks and came away impressed with the bipartisan nature of the speech.

Ubelhor is concerned about some of the funding increases proposed and wonders where the money will come from.

"I was happy with a lot of the things I heard, particularly the economic development side of it," Ubelhor said. "Trying to get the partnerships with the universities, which we have some of that going on down at WestGate (Tech Park). So all of those things kind of play into the bills I want to push forward on."

Ubelhor has introduced a bill that would provide $6 million to the WestGate at Crane Tech Park to be used for infrastructure improvements.

He said more funding for schools is good, but funding it could be a problem.

"The thing that I was somewhat dismayed was the funding side. What can we do for our own schools? There are a lot of good things in our schools and we want to try and get some things done to help kids," Ubelhor said.

"I want to get the vocational education things going too, but I've got rural schools and to try and duplicate that in five schools in Greene County, I'm worried about that. I want to know where the money is coming from."

District 45 State Rep. Kreg Battles (D-Vincennes) said he was "incredibly impressed" with what he heard from Pence.

He noted his list of things he could agree with the governor on overwhelmingly outweighed a list of things he didn't particularly like.

"The vast majority of the things he talked about were things that I could easily work with him. I left (encouraged) that there are so many things that I think we have on common ground," told the Greene County Daily World.

He pointed out that sometimes "the devil is in the details," but added, "When you are all pushing in the same direction it makes a big difference."

District 39 State Sen. John Waterman (R-Shelburn) also liked what he heard from Pence.

"Since my first day in office, my top priority has been to support small businesses and help get more Hoosiers back to work in our community. One way to do that is by keeping taxes low and focusing government spending on programs that encourage new investment and help prepare young Hoosiers for success as adults," Waterman stated in a prepared news release.

"Gov. Pence made clear that one of his goals is to improve jobs-training and vocational education in Indiana's classrooms. This has been a goal of mine for several years now and I hope to see serious steps taken to address this need."

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