Gov. Mike Pence will deliver his 2014 State of the State address to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly tonight, and area legislators hope to hear him focus on job creation, education and money for roads.
Pence’s address comes as a pair of contentious issues have consumed much of the early discourse in what will be a nine-week legislative session.
On Monday, in fact, hundreds of same-sex marriage activists filled Indiana’s House chamber for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.
On fiscal issues, the governor has floated a broad proposal to eliminate or phase out the personal property tax on business equipment that brings in $1 billion a year in revenue for cities, counties and schools. That idea has sparked opposition from a number of city, county and school leaders statewide who are fearful of losing what they see as crucial local tax revenue.
“I hope the governor has the same priorities as we do in the House — jobs, education and roads. I hope that’s what he focuses on in his speech,” said state Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who represents eastern Bartholomew County.
Eberhart said he doubts Pence mentions the same-sex marriage issue.
“He has been backing away from it lately. The tide is against it,” Eberhart said.
The Shelbyville representative said he doesn’t plan on supporting the proposal to seek a same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution.
“The marriage amendment is such a low priority and not something the government should be doing,” he said. “I don’t plan on supporting it, and the governor seems to be backing away from it.”
Indiana already bans gay marriage in state law, but supporters of the constitutional amendment say that tactic would strengthen the ban against court challenges. Meanwhile, a vocal coalition has emerged to oppose the amendment, and the issue has cast a national spotlight on the state.
If approved by lawmakers, the measure would head to voters in November.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said he wants to hear Pence discuss how he intends to reduce the cost of government without slashing local revenues “that provide services everyone relies upon.”
Pence’s plan to phase out the business equipment tax has drawn sharp criticism from local government leaders who fear gaping holes in their budgets if it passes.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.