GREENFIELD — House Speaker Brian Bosma wants some kind of tax cut in the state’s two-year budget, but just how much is still up in the air.
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, spoke at a Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday alongside Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield; and Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield.
The breakfast attracted a crowd of business and elected officials to Hancock Regional Hospital. Education funding, money for crumbling roads and the possible tax cuts were among the topics discussed Tuesday.
“There will be a tax cut in the budget at the end,” Bosma said. “The question is, which tax, how much and when.”
Bosma is not ruling out Gov. Mike Pence’s 10 percent income tax cut, but said lawmakers generally agree there are other taxes that could be considered.
He said the state’s inheritance tax, which is currently under a plan to be phased out over several years, is outdated and should be eliminated sooner. He also said Indiana’s corporate income tax is out of line with those in other states.
Bosma points out that the Tax Foundation, a tax research group, rated Indiana 10th in the nation for best income tax rates. But the top nine states don’t have income taxes at all, so of the 41 states that have income taxes, Indiana is rated best.
Still, Bosma acknowledges that the overall tax burden on Hoosiers is high when combining all types of taxation. That’s because Indiana’s individual average income level is relatively low compared to that in neighboring states.
“It’s something we think really needs to be addressed, and we’re working hard to make that happen,” he said.
The ultimate solution, he said, is to bring more high-paying jobs into the state.
Lawmakers entered into the second half of the legislative session this week: Bills passed by one chamber are now under consideration by the other chamber.
Crider said lawmakers will ultimately weigh tax cuts and budget decisions against the April state revenue forecast.
“The key thing everyone is waiting on is that April revenue forecast,” he said. “I’ve said all along I’m not opposed to the (Pence income tax cut) but I’m interested in what the numbers tell us.”
The House version of the state budget includes a boost in funding for K-12 education and more money for roads.
“You can’t be the crossroads of America and have crumbling infrastructure, which we do in so many communities throughout the state,” Bosma said.
Yet many budget details still need to be worked out. The senate will make changes to the budget, and Pence will also weigh in.
Hancock Regional Hospital CEO Bobby Keen asked about a proposed cut to funding for tobacco cessation programs, saying it seems like there’s a health gap in the state and programs that help improve the public’s health are being slashed.
Cherry urged Keen to “just be patient.” Some cuts made in the House budget, he predicted, will be restored in the end. He pointed out that the Legislature has done some things in recent years to improve public health, such as implementing a statewide workplace smoking ban last year.
Regarding the state’s efforts to attract business, Bosma said there’s still that “stubborn 8 percent unemployment rate,” that he attributes to a skills gap. A bill creating a new Indiana Career Council, written by Bosma, passed unanimously out of the House and should address the skills gap, he said.
The career council will join representatives from several state agencies to come up with a strategic plan that will align education skills and training with Indiana’s job market. The council will also address the so-called opportunity gap, where college graduates are leaving the state to find high-quality jobs elsewhere.
Retta Livengood, president of both the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greenfield-Central School Board, said she was interested in hearing about how the Legislature plans to boost education funding because that ultimately goes hand-in-hand with a better economy.
“That to me is the key of a good workforce,” she said. “We need a trained workforce; we need people to step up into science and technology.”