Pence “grateful” to lawmakers, weighing 2016 decision

File Photo.
File Photo.

WANE (INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana lawmakers had a short but productive session in 2014, sending several key items to Governor Mike Pence’s desk. Among the new initiatives Pence signed into law were hundreds of millions of dollars in road construction, a preschool voucher pilot program, and a cut of more than a one-and-a-half percent in the state’s business income tax.

NewsChannel 15’s Mark Mellinger recently sat down with Pence in the governor’s office to reflect on the session, as well as to gauge just how seriously Pence might be weighing a 2016 run for the presidency. Politico recently reported that the governor is listening as prominent conservatives urge him to run for the White House. Excerpts of NewsChannel 15’s interview with Pence are below:

Mark: “Finish this sentence: The biggest victory this legislative session was…”

Pence: “We demonstrated that a short session doesn’t need to be short on progress for the people of Indiana… You saw a General Assembly that was able to produce significant legislation on tax reform, on roads and bridges, and on education for… particularly opening the doors of opportunity to some of our most disadvantaged kids… I think each of these measures will be very consequential to the future of our state.”

Mark: “What’s happening is you’re getting your proposals passed, but they’re always getting severely cut down. I mean, you know, they’re watered-down versions of what you want; at least the big ticket items like the income tax last year, the proposed phase-out of the business personal property tax this year, the preschool vouchers this year. You see the genesis of those things, the roots of those things, but the fullness of what you wanted to get passed isn’t getting approved by lawmakers. What has this taught you? What have you learned from this about executive leadership?”

Pence: “I would respectfully disagree with your characterization. I believe that the role of an executive leader is to cast a vision, to point at a hill and say ‘We’re going to take that hill.’ And whether it be tax reform this year or last year, whether it be education reform this year or last year, we articulated some bold goals for the General Assembly, and I couldn’t be more grateful that through the course of the legislative process, which is all about principled compromise… I’m very proud of the progress that we’ve made in making Indiana more attractive for investment that’ll create jobs, in expanding educational opportunities for Hoosiers including Hoosiers at the pre-K level, and for investing in the kind of infrastructure that’ll support real prosperity and growth for many years to come.”

(NOTE: Lawmakers have consistently cut down Pence’s most sweeping proposals in his year-plus as governor. Last year, they passed half of the 10 percent personal income tax cut he proposed. This year, only half of the $400 million he wants for road construction is assured, and the preschool voucher program -which he wanted to affect 40,000 students- is starting at a fraction of that.)

Mark: “I know that you are going to say ‘I haven’t spent a second thinking about anything other than the job I was hired to do’ and I’m going to accept that as a pretext going into this question. But let me ask you: How seriously will you consider running for president in 2016?”

Pence: “I’ve been very humbled and flattered anytime our name is mentioned for the highest office in the land, but my focus is completely on the future of the people of Indiana.”

Mark: “But you’ve got to think about it seriously, don’t you? I mean, you have prominent national conservatives coming to you and wanting to have conversations about this. And there’s no ‘Who’s next?’ guy in the Republican Party this year.”

Pence: “I’m humbled by the mentions and humbled by any encouragement, but I think any interest that is emerging in me is as much about the progress Indiana’s making as anything else… and that’s where I’m going to stay completely focused -is on the future of the people of Indiana- and we’ll let my future take care of itself.”

Mark: “So when do you decide whether it’s going to be a run for reelection in 2016 or a run for the White House?”

Pence: “We’ll make a decision on seeking reelection to this office sometime probably next year. I don’t know exactly when that would be. But, in the meantime, we’re not going to be thinking a lot about politics or our future.”

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