When Republicans won the governors office and built upon their legislative majorities in the General Assembly in last years election, independents and Democrats were rightly concerned that the overwhelming GOP control would end debate over key issues.
That has been partially true, at least on some social issues. But Gov. Mike Pence and GOP legislative leaders have been remarkably frank in challenging the others key proposals.
On Tuesday, Pence reiterated his opposition to any expansion of gambling and questioned a Republican bill that would allow riverboat casinos to move inland and to replace automated card and roulette games with dealer-supervised table games. Though the proposal would not create new casinos, its goal is to bring in more revenue. Pence and the bills author then offered differing views on whether more gambling revenue meant expanding gambling.
Previously, key GOP legislative leaders publicly questioned Pences proposal for a 10 percent state income tax reduction – a reduction of about one-third of a percentage point – saying restoring more education and highway funding was more important. When a GOP-authored budget bill was introduced in the House, it excluded a tax cut.
Some of this back-and-forth is no doubt a product of a new governor establishing his power and legislative leaders wanting to set their own parameters. But the debate is a healthy change from when Republican legislators handed former Gov. Mitch Daniels without adequate debate nearly every major request he emphasized.
Unlike a purely partisan debate, the differences between Pence and the legislative leaders have been largely respectful, without acrimony and personal attacks – also welcome in todays political arena.
Hoosiers would benefit from more debate on more issues, especially those concerning expanding school vouchers and on social issues.
But in a year where it appeared there would be little true debate, Pence and legislative leaders such as Rep. Brian Bosma and Sens. David Long and Luke Kenley are demonstrating that even people whose politics are largely the same can – and should – disagree about important specifics.