By Rick Teverbaugh
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence signed Indiana's new two-year, $30 billion budget into law Wednesday, praising its tax relief measures and other provisions as incentives that would lure new investment and jobs to the state.
The Republican governor signed the budget bill in Crawfordsville as he was surrounded by workers at Crawford Industries, a maker of plastic binders, boxes and other products.
Lawmakers approved the budget April 27 after paring down Pence's original request for a 10 percent cut in the state's personal income tax to a 5 percent cut that will be phased in starting in 2015. The budget also includes a modest increase in school funding, and new money for roads and highways.
Pence said in a statement that those tax cuts worth about $350 million combined with repeal of the state inheritance tax and business tax reductions will help taxpayers, small businesses and family farms. He said the budget will provide about $600 million in tax relief and make Indiana more competitive in job creation and attracting investment.
"This is a jobs budget, and it signals that Indiana is open for business," Pence said. "By preserving Indiana's strong fiscal position, increasing funding for schools and roads, and giving Hoosiers $600 million a year in tax relief, this budget will encourage investment in Indiana."
The new budget includes $190 million for K-12 education and more than $600 million for roads and infrastructure, restoring some of the funding cut under former Gov. Mitch Daniels during the recession.
Pence thanked lawmakers involved in crafting the new budget, which Indiana Democrats have said provides its biggest tax savings to wealthy Hoosiers and businesses while the middle class would see few benefits. Democrats also have said that Republicans who control the governor's office and both legislative chambers were shortchanging education by increasing school funding 2 percent in the budget's first year and 1 percent in the second, after big cuts were made during the recession.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, however, called the new state budget a victory for Indiana taxpayers.
"We passed a balanced budget with no tax increases; we are living within our means; and we passed the largest tax cut in Hoosier history. This is what it looks like to have a government that works for the people," Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said in a statement.
Pence on Wednesday also exercised his first vetoes as governor since taking office in January, rejecting two bills with new licensing requirements that he said would "create barriers."
The governor vetoed a bill requiring licenses for diabetes educators and a measure creating new license requirements for anesthesiologist assistants and dietitians, as well as state certification for music therapists.
Pence said he vetoed the bills because he believes Indiana needs fewer, not more, licensing requirements. He said both bills do not meet his standard of licensing legislation that opens up new employment opportunities or streamlines existing practices and procedures
"I am vetoing these licensing bills because I believe they create barriers to the marketplace for Hoosiers and restrict competition," Pence said.
His statement said that licensing in Indiana had "exploded" during the past decade. Pence said that in 2004, about 340,000 Indiana residents held a professional license, but that there are now more than 470,000 Hoosiers with such licenses.
He noted that was a 38 percent increase in licenses during a time-span when Indiana's population increased only 7 percent.
Indiana's lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene on June 12 to consider overrides and technical corrections. A simple majority is needed in both the House and Senate to override an Indiana governor's veto.