Political Notebook

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Bosma letter explains problem with tax cut

The argument over Gov. Mike Pence’s proposed income tax cut has moved beyond the Statehouse walls but stayed within the Republican Party.

“I apologize for including you in this ‘family discussion,’ ” GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said in a three-page letter to all Republican county chairmen on Feb. 19 regarding the budget battle.

The letter was in preparation for a House vote on the proposed budget, which passed Monday night.

Bosma noted that Pence had expressed his “disappointment” that the Republican spending plan didn’t contain his tax cut, and a number of party faithful reached out to legislators in response.

“While Senator (David) Long and I encouraged the governor to keep our discussions in his office while we reviewed options and solutions to any disagreement (as we successfully did on many occasions with Governor Daniels), our members are now faced with public discussions at Lincoln Day dinners and with our party leadership, and I felt it best that you have all the facts to help us move forward,” Bosma stated in the letter.

Bosma then laid out why Republicans are prioritizing more education and road funding than Pence and pointed out numerous ways the House Republican caucus is supporting the governor’s “roadmap” through other legislation.

Most importantly, Bosma built a case against the income tax cut. He noted the Tax Foundation rates Indiana’s income tax as the best in the nation among the 41 states that have income taxes, and instead focused on eliminating the inheritance tax faster than is in current law.

The letter ended by saying a “member of our political staff” would be contacting each chairman to make sure the letter was received and understood, and Bosma gave his personal cellphone number out to answer any questions.

Allen County GOP Chairman Steve Shine said he appreciates that Bosma is keeping the political organizations informed, but it did not change his outlook. He also acknowledged he has never received such a letter in his years in leadership.

“I wholeheartedly support Gov. Pence in his call for an income tax cut,” Shine said. “I really do think that putting the money back in the pockets of Indiana taxpayers is going to help stimulate the economy and help small businesses. The governor deserves to have his roadmap for Indiana respected and adopted. Many other states are moving in that direction, and we don’t want to be lagging behind.”

In moderation

Indiana members of Congress apparently moderated their voting records last year, according to ratings compiled by the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

Five of eight Republican lawmakers posted scores for 2012 that were lower – or less conservative – than their career averages, while all three Democratic legislators had scores that were higher than their career marks.

Former Republican Rep. Mike Pence – now Indiana’s governor – scored 78 percent last year, compared with his 95 percent career score, according to the Club for Growth analysis. Meanwhile, former Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly – now a senator – scored 14 percent for his career but 37 percent last year.

Donnelly won his Senate seat by defeating Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Club for Growth political action committees spent nearly $3.87 million trying to get Mourdock elected.

Scores were based on 30 votes taken in the Senate and 23 in the House.

Club for Growth advocates economic growth, tax reductions, limited government, deregulation, free trade and school choice. The group is headed by Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman from Indiana.

Indiana Republicans whose scores for 2012 were higher than their career marks were Reps. Larry Bucshon and Todd Young. Former Rep. Dan Burton’s scores were the same – 86 percent for the year and his 30-year career.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, scored 88 percent last year, highest among Hoosier members of Congress. But that was 5 percentage points lower than Stutzman scored in 2011 and tied him for 42nd among 430 House members whose voting records were rated.

Republican Sen. Dan Coats scored 79 percent, which tied him for 18th highest in the 100-member Senate. His career score is 88 percent.

Former six-term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar scored 52 percent, which was 40th highest in the Senate, and 64 percent for his career.

The scorecard can be found at www.clubforgrowth.org/Projects.

3rd time no charm

A rarity on the House floor became all too common Monday night – third reading amendments.

House Speaker Brian Bosma likes to wax poetic about how committees are the workhorses of the legislature, and that is where the real work on bills needs to be done.

Small amendments on second reading are expected, too.

But third-reading amendments require unanimous consent for the body to hear and usually are only technical in nature.

On Monday night – the last night to pass bills from the House to the Senate – Republicans needed not one, not two, but three substantive third-reading amendments to try to get bills passed.

That’s pretty shocking when you consider Republicans have 69 members and only 51 are needed to pass a bill.

One tax bill by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, failed to reach a constitutional majority of 51 to either approve or defeat it. So he came back late that evening with a third-reading amendment stripping out the local tax language that many didn’t like.

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, was in jeopardy of not being able to pass a bill affecting turnaround academies and rewriting the state’s accountability rankings. So he offered a third-reading amendment that stripped out massive portions of the bill and left many confused about what was left.

It was ultimately defeated even in a pared-down form.

Another bill on residential leases also was amended before passage.

Bosma said Tuesday that the amendments were more substantive and exceed his comfort level.

“I was not thrilled,” he said. “I don’t anticipate that the rest of session.”

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.

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