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Pence’s veto taxes Republican unity


The General Assembly convenes today in an unprecedented one-day session. The primary purpose of the meeting is the vote to override Gov. Mike Pence’s veto of a tax bill that easily passed in both chambers and included welcome measures to help veterans and their families.

Lawmakers will also consider fixes to several legislative errors that otherwise would have had to wait until next year. This is the first time the legislature has met under a 1995 law that gives the House speaker and Senate president pro tem the power to call legislators back for a day to override a veto or fix technical errors.

In this year’s session, House Enrollment Act 1546 corrected an oversight by locally elected officials in Jackson and Pulaski counties. The law allows the counties to keep income tax collections despite the expiration of a tax they had adopted. Both counties passed a local income tax in 1998 to fund new jail projects, and then they continued collecting it without renewing it after the tax expired.

As a result, Jackson County taxpayers have paid 0.1 percent more than authorized since 2011 and Pulaski County residents have paid a similar 0.3 percent tax since 2006.

The legislation to correct the oversight passed unanimously in the House. Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City was the only legislator to oppose the legislation. The fix avoided the difficulty of issuing refunds and had strong support in both counties.

But Pence vetoed the fix in May.

Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour in Jackson County described the legislation as a common sense solution and told a reporter for The Statehouse File that he will do “everything I can to see that this bill becomes a law.”

In a letter sent to legislators on Monday, Pence urged them to sustain his veto and described the legislation as a “retroactive approval of taxes collected.”

In a statement also released on Monday, Senate President Pro Tem David Long said, “I appreciate the Governor’s thoughtful input on HEA 1546, but respectfully disagree with his proposed course of action. After consulting with residents and elected officials in the two affected counties, the Senate leadership team believes HEA 1546 provides a proper solution that has local support. When you also factor in the other positive elements of the bill, including help for Hoosier veterans and their surviving spouses, we believe HEA 1546 should stand as passed. Either way, the General Assembly will determine the ultimate course of action the state will take on this issue.”

A simple majority in both chambers is needed to override the governor’s veto.

In addition to the provision for Jackson and Pulaski counties, the bill includes myriad other tax-related measures that deserve passage. Specifically, the provisions to help veterans and their families, such as a allowing a deceased veteran’s spouse to claim the veteran’s property tax deduction and allowing qualified disabled veterans to claim motor vehicle excise tax credits.