INDIANAPOLIS – Less than two days after the Republican-controlled General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 session, Republican Gov. Mike Pence signaled he may veto some legislation coming his way.
During a press conference Monday in which he praised lawmakers for their hard work , Pence told reporters: “There are a number of bills we have concerns about,” but declined to elaborate.
Pence’s comment, in response to a question from a reporter about whether the first-term governor would exercise his veto power, came as news to Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis, who held a subsequent press conference of his own.
“I haven’t heard that from the governor, that any particular bill would or wouldn’t be vetoed,” Bosma said. “I did hear he expressed reservation about quite a few bills this morning but he hasn’t personally told me of any concern he had one way or another.”
Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne had a similar response. Long’s press secretary, Lindsay Jancek, said Long “had not heard that there were any concerns until today.” Long has since instructed his staff to contact the governor’s office to request a list of bills that concern Pence.
During his press conference, Pence hinted that one of the bills that may come under his scrutiny is the controversial Marion County government reorganization bill that eliminates four at-large council seats and gives the mayor – currently a Republican -- more fiscal controls.
He wouldn’t name any specific legislation he’s considering vetoing, but also said there was a long list of bills headed his way, many of which he was not familiar with yet.
“We will carefully examine them and do what we think is right,” Pence said.
His window of time is short. The General Assembly passed almost 300 pieces of legislation this session, and as early Monday, the governor had signed off on 93 of them. Once a bill is presented to the Governor by legislative leaders – who must first sign off on it -- he has 7 days to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.
Bosma said it’s the governor’s prerogative to kill a bill.
“He and his team will have to dig in and find out the reasons for the legislation and the result and see if he agrees,” Bosma said. “That’s one of the significant powers of the governor of the state.”
Pence used part of his press conference Monday to praise the work of legislators who ended the 2013 session early Saturday morning after passing a $30 billion budget bill. The final two-year spending plan contains the beginning of 5 percent cut in the state’s income tax rate. It’s less than the 10 percent cut that Pence had originally demanded.
Pence said he was pleased with the final budget bill that phases in the income tax cut over four years, eliminates the state’s inheritance tax retroactively to Jan. 1, plus reduces the tax on financial institutions. He repeatedly called it “the right tax relief at the right time,” and said the combination of tax cuts is the largest in Indiana history.
But his comments about “concerns” over other legislation came as a surprise in part because he’d weighed in on other major bills during the last half of the four-month session.
Pence made it known, for example, that he wanted tougher penalties for marijuana crimes than what were in a criminal sentencing bill. He opposed a provision in the original gaming bill that let the state’s horse-track casinos switch from electronic table games to live dealers.
Both bills were changed to accommodate Pence, by legislators who feared the bills would be vetoed otherwise.
But during this past session, the tension between Pence and the legislative leaders in his own party were apparent. Pence’s demand for 10 percent tax cut, for example, was made without consulting either Long or Bosma. When they initially resisted the idea, a pro-Pence organization with Tea Party ties, Americans for Prosperity, launched an aggressive media attack on Republican legislators.
During his Monday press conference, Pence acknowledged the intra-party fight over the tax cut involved some “very vigorous discussions” but that he also came away with greater respect for the state legislature.
“We had some disagreements,” Pence said. “Occasionally in public, more frequently in private.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.