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Taxes, education at heart of first Pence State of State address

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence focused on taxes and education in his first-ever State of the State speech Tuesday night.

He didn't break any new ground in the address – instead reinforcing his campaign priorities and recently released state budget proposal.

Pence spent the largest part of his speech on his aim to cut the individual income tax by 10 percent

"Hoosiers work hard. They labor in a fragile economy. They save and invest in their families and businesses and family farms. Why wouldn't we want them to keep more of what they earn?" he asked.

And he directly challenged lawmakers who are quietly opposing the biggest item on this legislative agenda, saying, "Let's be honest with our fellow Hoosiers: We can afford to do this."

Pence also said he support expanding the state's voucher program, which uses state taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private schools for low- to middle-income families.

He specifically wants to remove the requirement that students first try public school for a year before being eligible for vouchers and lifting the income restrictions for foster, adopted, special needs and military families.

Pence closed with a nod to the recent school shooting that has ignited a nationwide debate on gun control.

"All of us were heartbroken after every parent's worst nightmare unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut. While others have rushed to the well-worn arguments over gun control, Hoosiers know this is not about access to firearms. It is about access to schools," he said.

"Hoosiers have responsibilities to protect our kids, and Hoosiers have rights. We will protect our kids, and we will protect our rights. Hoosiers know we can do both."

Pence is pushing a school safety study in his budget.

For more on this story, see Wednesday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Wednesday.

nkelly@jg.net

Highlights

Here are the highlights of Gov. Mike Pence's first State of the State speech:
* Proposed income tax cut will give relief to Hoosier families, farms and small businesses
* Expand incentives for pre-kindergarten for low-income children
* Make career, technical and vocational education a priority in every high school
* Fully fund Medicaid
* Additional funding for Department of Child Services
* Calls for freedom from federal intervention
* $18 million in new money to close the skills gap for Hoosier workers
* Partnership with Indiana's life sciences industry to spur research and high-paying jobs
* Support for an Agriculture Innovation Corridor
* Commitment to Indiana veterans via veteran service officers, investing more money in job training and setting a goal of 3 percent of state contracts to veteran-owned businesses.

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