By the Associated Press in the Northwest Indiana Times:
Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday he wants to review Indiana's tax code to simplify it and promote economic development.
"This is not about raising taxes or cutting taxes," Pence said during a summit he called to examine possible tax changes. "This is about trying to look at a way we can reform the tax code and lessen the burden of compliance on Hoosiers and Hoosier businesses and create a more attractive environment for investment in Indiana through tax simplification."
Lawmakers have been cutting taxes fairly routinely in recent years, but a report from the conservative Tax Foundation found that that the average tax burden for Indiana residents grew between 2001 and 2011, in large part because of declining incomes. Lawmakers capped property taxes in 2008, but they also increased the state sales tax by a percentage point, from 6 percent to 7 percent.
Like much of his governing, Pence is starting off with a broad idea and leaving things largely open-ended. The summit, organized by Office of Management and Budget Director Chris Atkins, culled general ideas for tax reform from a mix of national conservative leaders and state and local tax experts.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said no tax-code overhaul should be used to hide tax increases. Meanwhile, Jim Eads, former head of the national Federation of Tax Administrators, told attendees that comprehensive tax reform is often talked about but seldom achieved.
Democratic lawmakers and staff attended the daylong event but were not included on any of the panels. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, continued a longstanding criticism of Pence and the state's Republican leaders.
"Notably absent from these proceedings is anyone representing working people or working families trying to get into the middle class," Pelath said in a statement. "Looking at the roster of participants, I'm not sure anyone should be surprised that the middle class has been left out. It's far better for them to lecture others than to get out into neighborhoods and communities to see the impact of their policies."