State of State reaction

Reaction to the Governor’s State of the State Address, sent via e-mail, by Indiana Senators David Long, President Pro Tem and Tom Wyss:

Hoosiers join lawmakers in applauding Daniels’ conservative fiscal message
Senators hand voters final decision on property tax caps hours before State of State address

Hoosier citizens joined lawmakers in applauding Gov. Mitch Daniels’ fiscally conservative message tonight following the annual State of the State Address.

Since 2005, Senate lawmakers have effectively partnered with Gov. Daniels on legislation to cap property taxes, cut government spending, avoid tax hikes, spur job growth, streamline government, reform redistricting and enhance government ethics. So tonight’s speech was music to many lawmakers’ ears, because he was singing to the choir. His message also resonated with constituents and taxpayers who have strongly supported our joint efforts to cap, cut, combine and conserve.

Property Tax Caps

Earlier today, the Senate handed Hoosiers the right to vote on permanently capping property taxes. By a vote of 35 to 15, the full Senate gave final passage to a joint resolution that would constitutionally cap property tax rates at 1 percent for owner-occupied homes, 2 percent for other residential and agricultural properties and 3 percent for businesses. To change the Constitution, an amendment must be passed by two separately elected General Assemblies and then approved by voters statewide. In the immediate aftermath of the 2007 property tax crisis, both chambers passed the property tax caps in 2008. The Republican-led Senate kept the momentum for the caps and public referendum going by passing it again in 2009, but it failed to receive a vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. This election year, the measure was considered in the House where it passed by a vote of 75 to 23. Today’s historic Senate passage completed legislative involvement — other than advocacy among voters who will now have the final say.

Government Spending Cuts

Senate Republicans helped craft and pass a frugal two-year budget in 2009 that most believed conservatively estimated revenues and maintained appropriate cash reserves in order to protect vital services. However, given the depth and duration of the national recession, more cuts in state spending were needed. So far, state agencies have been cut 20 percent and higher education by 6 percent. In December, Gov. Daniels reluctantly announced the state will begin cost-cutting of last resort: schools. Indiana lawmakers invest nearly half of the state’s budget in K-12 education, which was asked to trim 3 percent from local operations. The Senate has done its part by cutting its current budget an additional 5 percent, foregoing pay increases and freezing all but essential hiring.

Economic Development

Hoosier jobs and the economy are on everyone’s mind at the Statehouse. Senate Republicans remain committed to maintaining and fostering the creation of new job opportunities. While too many Hoosiers are unemployed and under-employed, Indiana continues to make progress in establishing a positive business climate. Indiana’s unemployment rate in November 2009 was lower than all surrounding states as well as the national average. Our state recently ranked number one in the Midwest for low taxes, earned the title of “Best Places for Business” by Chief Executive Magazine and “Best State For Business” by CNBC. In 2009, 160 companies chose Indiana over another state or country to make their next investments – promising 19,995 new jobs averaging $20.95 per hour and $1.96 billion in investment. To ensure Indiana remains competitive and better positioned than others as the recovery occurs, Senate Republicans are calling for an immediate, bipartisan review of the best economic development practices used by other states in attracting, retaining and expanding business investment and job creation. There will be leaders and followers in America’s emerging economy and I want to make certain Indiana tax laws and economic development efforts position our state and our fellow Hoosiers to compete effectively.

Government Ethics Enhancements

Following Gov. Daniels’ lead in the executive branch, Senate Republicans this session introduced legislation aimed at strengthening ethics standards across state government, including a one-year “cooling-off period” before former lawmakers could become lobbyists. Other highlights of the state ethics enhancements include requiring all gifts, food and entertainment to be reported uniformly as expenses by all lobbyists; reducing the threshold for reported one-time lobbyist expenses from $100 to $50 and reducing the annual total from $500 to $250; expanding state registration and reporting requirements to include university officials; increasing penalties from $10 per day to $100 per day for failure to file lobbyist registrations and reports in a timely manner; and prohibiting statewide office holders from using state funds for radio and television advertising unless the individual gains prior permission from the State Budget Committee and State Budget Agency. Gubernatorial public service announcements related to public health or safety would automatically be allowed.

Reforming Redistricting

This year’s Senate Bill 80, authored and supported by GOP senators, would establish in law several objective guidelines for drawing Indiana’s legislative and Congressional districts, including preservation of traditional neighborhoods and local communities of interest, protection of minority voting rights, compactness and respect when possible for county and precinct boundaries.

The Senators on the www:
Senator David Long
Senator Tom Wyss

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