Governor of Indiana Mike Pence
In May 2011, Mike Pence announced that he would be seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana in 2012. Incumbent Republican Governor Mitch Daniels was term-limited. Despite strong name recognition and a popular outgoing governor of the same party, Pence found himself in a heated race, eventually pulling out a close win with just under 50 percent of the vote against Democrat John R. Gregg and Libertarian nominee Rupert Boneham. Pence was sworn in as the 50th governor of Indiana on January 14, 2013.
Fiscal and economic policy initiatives of Mike Pence
Mike Pence “inherited a $2 billion budget reserve from his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, and the state has added to that reserve under his watch, though not before requiring state agencies, including public universities, to reduce funding in years in which revenue fell below projections.” The state finished fiscal year 2014 with a reserve of $2 billion; budget cuts ordered by Pence for the $14 billion annual state budget include $24 million cut from colleges and universities; $27 million cut from the ‘Family and Social Services Administration’ (FSSA); and $12 million cut from the Department of Correction. During Pence’s term as governor, the unemployment rate reflected the national average. Indiana’s job growth lagged slightly behind the national trend. In 2014, Indiana’s economy was among the slowest-growing in the United States, with 0.4% GDP growth, compared to the national average of 2.2%; this was attributed in part to a sluggish manufacturing sector. Carrier Corp. and United Technologies Electronic Controls (UTEC) announced in 2016 that they would be closing two facilities in Indiana, sending 2,100 jobs to Mexico; the Trump campaign criticized the moves and Pence expressed “deep disappointment”. Mike Pence was unsuccessful in his efforts to persuade the companies to stay in the state, although the companies agreed to reimburse local and state governments for certain tax incentives that they had received. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation led by Pence had approved $24m in incentives to 10 companies who sent jobs abroad. $8.7m had been paid out by August 2016.
In 2013, Mike Pence signed a law blocking local governments in Indiana from requiring businesses to offer higher wages or benefits beyond those required by federal law. In 2015, Pence also repealed an Indiana law that required construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage. Indiana enacted right-to-work legislation under Pence’s predecessor, Republican governor Mitch Daniels. Under Pence, the state successfully defended this legislation against a labor challenge.
Pence made tax reform, namely a 10% income-tax rate cut, a priority for 2013. While he did not get the 10% cut he advocated, Pence did accomplish his goal of cutting state taxes. Legislators cut the income tax by 5% and also killed the inheritance tax. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma said that the legislative package was the “largest tax cut in our state’s history, about $1.1 billion dollars.” By signing Senate Bill 1, the state corporate income tax would be dropped from 6.5% to 4.9% by 2021, which would be the second-lowest corporate income tax in the nation. The law also permitted Indiana counties to eliminate the business personal property tax on new equipment and let them exempt small businesses with less than $20,000 worth of equipment from paying personal property taxes.
On June 12, 2013, the Indiana Legislature overrode Pence’s veto of a bill to retroactively authorize a local tax. Lawmakers overrode Pence’s veto in a 68–23 vote in the House and a 34–12 one in the Senate. Republican legislators overwhelmingly voted against Pence, while most Democrats supported his veto. The Jackson–Pulaski tax fix, one of three bills vetoed by Pence during the session, addressed a 15-year-old county income tax which had been imposed to fund the construction of jail facilities with the stipulation that the tax be lowered by 1% after the first several years. The reduction was not implemented and thus county residents paid an additional 1% tax that they were legally not required to pay. The bill, which was passed by a huge majority of legislators and subsequently vetoed by Pence, allowed money to be kept and not returned to the tax payers as would have otherwise been necessary.
As governor, Pence pressed for a balanced budget amendment to the state’s constitution. He initially proposed the initiative in his State of the State address in January 2015. The legislation passed the state Senate. Indiana has had AAA credit ratings with the three major credit-rating agencies since 2010, before Pence took office; these ratings were maintained throughout Pence’s tenure.
In 2014, Pence supported the Indiana Gateway project, a $71.4 million passenger and freight rail improvement initiative paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the federal stimulus package), which Pence had voted against while a congressman. In October 2015, Pence “announced plans to pay off a $250 million federal loan” to cover unemployment insurance payments that spiked during the recession. In March 2016, Pence signed legislation to fund a $230 million two-year road-funding package.
Education policies of Mike Pence
During his tenure as governor, Pence supported significant increases in education funding to pre-schools, voucher programs, and charter schools, but frequently clashed with supporters of traditional public schools. In 2014, a little over one year after taking office, Pence helped establish a $10 million state preschool pilot program in Indiana and testified personally before the state Senate Education Committee in favor of the program to convince fellow Republicans (several of whom opposed the proposal) to approve the plan. Although the plan was initially defeated, Pence successfully managed to revive it, “getting Indiana off the list of just 10 states that spent no direct funds to help poor children attend preschool.” Demand for enrollment in the program “far outstripped” capacity, and Pence at first refused to apply for up to $80 million in federal Health and Human Services Preschool Development Grant program funding, arguing that “Indiana must develop our own pre-K program without federal intrusion.” After coming under sustained criticism for this position, Pence reversed course and sought to apply for the funds.
In 2015, Pence secured significant increases in charter-school funding from the legislation, although he did not get everything he had proposed. Legislation signed into law by Pence in 2013 greatly increased the number of students in Indiana who qualify for school vouchers, making it one of the largest voucher programs in the United States. The annual cost of the program is estimated to be $53 million for the 2015–16 school year.
Mike Pence opposed the Common Core State Standards Initiative, calling for the repeal of the standards in his 2014 State of the State address. The Indiana General Assembly then passed a bill to repeal the standards, becoming the first state to do so.
Despite successful advocacy for more funding for pre-schools, voucher programs, and charter schools, Pence has frequently clashed with teachers unions and supporters of public schooling. In one of his first acts as governor, Pence removed control of the Educational Employment Relations Board, which was in charge of handling conflicts between unions and school boards, from Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who was the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction (a separately elected position in the state). Pence created a new “Center for Education and Career Innovation” (CECI) to coordinate efforts between schools and the private sector; Ritz opposed the Center, viewing it as a “power grab” and encroachment on her own duties. Pence eventually disestablished the Center in order to help defuse the conflict. In May 2015, Pence signed a bill stripping Ritz of much of her authority over standardized testing and other education issues, and reconstituting the State Board of Education dominated by Pence appointees. The bill also allowed the board to appoint a chairman other than the Superintendent of Public Instruction starting in 2017, and added the State Board of Education (controlled by Pence) as a “state educational authority” along with the Department of Education (controlled by Ritz) for purposes of accessing sensitive student data. Pence and Ritz also clashed over non-binding federal guidelines that advised Indiana public schools must treat transgender students in a way that corresponds to their gender identity, even if their education files indicate a different gender.
Energy and environment of Mike Pence
During Pence’s term in office, the Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly “repeatedly tried to roll back renewable energy standards and successfully ended Indiana’s energy efficiency efforts.” Pence has been an outspoken supporter of the coal industry, declaring in his 2015 State of the State address that “Indiana is a pro-coal state,” expressing support for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” and stating: “we must continue to oppose the overreaching schemes of the EPA until we bring their war on coal to an end.” In 2015, Pence sent a letter to President Obama denouncing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (which would regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants) and stating that Indiana would refuse to comply with the plan. Indiana joined other states in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the plan. In 2016, Pence stated that even if legal challenges failed, Indiana would continue to defy the rule and would not come up with its own plan to reduce emissions.
Gun policy of Mike Pence
In 2014, over the opposition of Indiana school organizations, Pence signed a bill which allows firearms to be kept in vehicles on school property. In 2015, following a shooting in Chattanooga, Pence recruited the National Rifle Association to train the Indiana National Guard on concealed carry. Some National Guard officials from other states questioned why a civilian organization would be involved in a military issue. In May 2015, Pence signed into law Senate Bill 98, which limited lawsuits against gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers and retroactively terminated the City of Gary‘s still-pending 1999 lawsuit against gun manufacturers and retailers that allegedly made illegal sales of handguns. The bill was supported by Republicans such as state Senator Jim Tomes, who hoped that the measure would attract more gun-related businesses to Indiana, but opposed by Gary mayor and former Indiana attorney general Karen Freeman-Wilson, who viewed the measure as “an unprecedented violation of the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of state government.” In 2016, Pence signed Senate Bill 109 into law, legalizing the captive hunting of farm-raised deer in Indiana.
Public health issues of Mike Pence
Beginning in December 2014, there was an HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana. In 2011, Planned Parenthood ran five rural clinics in Indiana. They tested for HIV and offered prevention, intervention and counseling for better health. The one in Scott County performed no abortions. The Republican-controlled legislature and Pence defunded Planned Parenthood. Scott County has been without an HIV testing center since 2013. Pence had long been a vocal opponent of needle exchange programs, which allow drug users to trade in used syringes for sterile ones in order to stop the spread of diseases, despite evidence that such programs prevent the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C, and do not increase drug abuse.
In March 2015, after the outbreak began, Mike Pence allowed at least five counties to open needle exchanges, but has not moved to lift the state ban on funding for needle exchanges. Critics say Pence’s compromise has been ineffective because counties had no way to pay for needle exchanges themselves. Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams defended Pence, saying that publicly funded needle exchange programs are controversial in many conservative communities. In middle America, Adams said, you can’t “just point your finger at folks and say, ‘You need to have a syringe exchange and we’re going to pay for it with your tax dollars.'”
In 2015, Mike Pence and the Obama administration agreed to expand Medicaid in Indiana, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. As part of the expansion, Pence negotiated modifications to the program for Indiana that included co-payments by participants. The co-payments are linked to healthy behaviors on the part of the participants, so that, for example, a participant who quit smoking would receive a lower co-payment. Participants can lose benefits for failing to make the payments.