After announcing that Indiana’s economic future depends on “making job creation job one,” Gov. Mike Pence expressed the most profound sentiment in his State of the State address. “Let’s be clear,” he said. “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.” If only the stimulate-and-invest geniuses in the federal government could grasp the concept.
Pence make a good case for the one item of his agenda that is both the most important component of creating a healthier economy and the one he will have the hardest time getting through the revenue-starved General Assembly: a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut. He rightly argues that such “fiscal restraint” – the tax cut in conjunction with an “honestly balanced budget” that leaves the state with a strong surplus – will spur growth by unleashing money to the private economy and creating an environment businesses will seek out and thrive in.
Most of the other items on his to-do list also relate to jobs and the economy in one way or another, making his Roadmap for Indiana a coherent, unified approach to the state’s top priority:
Have a moratorium on hew regulations. Businesses are already choked by red tape, so for heaven’s sake let’s consider carefully before adding any new burdens.
Make sure funding is adequate for education, which future workers desperately need, and transportation, which provides the networks businesses require to move goods and people.
Partner with life sciences industries and universities to spur research and high-paying jobs and take advantage of our farming strength by supporting an Agricultural Innovation Corridor.
Strengthen career, technical and vocational education in Indiana high schools and create Regional Works Councils to develop regional, demand-driven curricula.
Expand the state’s already-best-in-the-nation school choice programs so more parents can seek the best education possible for their children.
The more items he can get through the legislature, the better chance Pence will have of achieving the best business environment and employment prospects in the Midwest, if not the nation. So he has to decide how big a fight with fellow Republicans he wants to have on the tax cut and how much of the rest of his agenda such a fight would jeopardize.
But legislators have a decision, too. How much do they believe in the conservative principle that healthier economies pay more in taxes, giving the state even more revenue than a static or increasing tax rate would? Pence certainly believes it, and so far we’ve heard only his arguments.