I was taught a long time ago when I was a cub reporter in the early 1990s that when you interview or talk to someone, what they don’t say is sometimes a lot more important than what they actually do say.
And after listening to Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Pro Tem David Long last week right after Gov. Mike Pence’s State of the State address, I am convinced more than ever that it is a good thing that the governor is a man of faith because it will probably take an act of God to pass his 10 percent income tax right now.
The governor made the tax cut a cornerstone of his campaign, and since getting elected he has been making a very careful sell to lawmakers.
During the first meeting of the State Budget Committee, Pence’s budget director, Chris Atkins, made it a point to show how Indiana was financially sound, paying all its bills, increasing funding for roads and education and fully covering the natural growth in Medicaid prior to showing how the state could afford a tax cut and still keep a surplus.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Pence added two new dynamics to the tax cut argument: the increase of the payroll tax and the tax on medical device manufacturers, and pumping $500 million into the state’s economy.
You would think that would be enough for some folks. Well, not so much.
The House and Senate Republican leaders still don’t seem convinced. In a very polite and respectful fashion, Bosma said the bad decisions of the federal government will have very little bearing on whether lawmakers decide to cut taxes. (Hint! Hint!)
And Long noted that it was probably best for all parties to wait until the April revenue forecast before deciding whether to move forward with the proposed tax cut. (Wink! Wink! Nudge! Nudge!)
Those were very clear signs that two of the most powerful figures in Indiana government are nowhere near where Pence would like them to be on cutting taxes.
Luckily, the governor has plenty of time to make his case and work the crowds, so to speak. There are a ton of Lincoln Day dinners between now and April, so he can make the circuit and push his proposal.
He can also pen tons of articles making the case for his cut. And since he is a former broadcaster, he can easily hit the airwaves across the state during his travels promoting his plan.
And in the meantime, his staff can quietly spend their time lobbying lawmakers and convincing skeptics about the proposal.
And if anyone in the governor’s office is listening, that’s the strategy they might actually want to take for now.
In the interim, work with lawmakers on the areas where there is broad, bipartisan agreement such as workforce development, closing the “skills gap,” and increasing vocational education opportunities for Hoosier students.
I think if the governor takes that approach, he will have built up more than enough good will so that when April gets here, and the revenue gods smile favorably upon him, he will have a much easier sell than right now. Because right now, I don’t hear anyone in the Statehouse saying the income tax cut is a good idea.
And like I said, what someone doesn’t say speaks louder than what they do say.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.