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Pence talks spending on education, creating jobs

GARY- Governor Mike Pence received warm reactions from many local business and community leaders at a Gary Chamber of Commerce event Friday.

Pence spoke of his proposed budget for the state, boosting education and vocational training and lowering the personal income tax rate.

“I really believe this is a unique time in the state of Indiana to be positive and work together,” said Pence, who has been making the rounds across the state.

He spent considerable time talking about his Irish father, who became a bus driver on Chicago’s south side, a personal touch that resonated with pastor Chet Johnson, Sr., of New Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Gary.

“To me, it was a very personal statement that came from within him,” Johnson said of Pence’s comments. “If the governor’s actions actually coincide with what he’s said today, then he’ll be a great governor.”

Louis Gonzalez, vice chancellor and dean of Ivy Tech Community College’s De La Garza campus in East Chicago, said he appreciated Pence’s focus on vocational training as a viable option for new high school graduates and returning adults.

“(Pence) tied vocational training with American jobs and the American dream, and I think everyone in the room can relate to that,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve been saying for years everyone has a dream and ultimate talents they’re blessed with, and when you bring that out, the sky’s the limit.”

As a Republican governor with Republican super-majorities in the Indiana house and Senate, Pence did not need to come to Northwest Indiana to get anyone’s support to push his agenda through, said State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and head of the Indiana Black Caucus.

“There’s not an issue of who’s in control in Indianapolis, but I believe (Pence) wants to be fair about it and give (Democrats) in the House and Senate the chance to have their voices heard, and it’s about how (Pence) is going to be perceived by the public.”

Randolph said Pence is gathering information from residents throughout Indiana, “then he’s going to start shaping and refining his policy.”

Vanessa Allen, president and CEO of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana, applauded Pence’s comments on boosting education in Indiana and his visit to the Career Center shortly before the speech at the Genesis Convention Center.

“I felt there was a passion there in (Pence’s) comments,” Allen said. “And, I believe with (Pence’s) support and the community’s support and with (Gary schools superintendent) Cheryl Pruitt, we can really enhance a lot of those services at the Gary Career Center.”

—Michael Gonzalez

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:44AM



GARY — Gov. Mike Pence made his third major foray into Northwest Indiana, telling hundreds of business and civic leaders Friday about his hopes to strengthen education and vocational training, build jobs and cut the state’s personal income tax.

“I have no other ambition than this, and that is to be the governor for all of the people of the state of Indiana,” he said to applause from the hundreds attending the Gary Chamber of Commerce event.

Friday’s visit was Pence’s third to Lake and Porter Counties since he was inaugurated last month. Last week, he picked longtime Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura to be the next director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, a high profile position.

Pence said his “balanced budget” proposal puts 64 percent of state expenditures on education and vocational training. He said his budget includes full-day kindergarten statewide, and $20 million for adult vocational training.

Pence also promoted a plan to invest $350 million in roads and other infrastructure.

His call for a cut in Indiana’s individual income tax rate to give “an extra $700 per year back to Hoosier families,” can generate “$500 million extra in Hoosier communities,” Pence said.

Lower tax rates mean more jobs, Pence claimed, using the upcoming college basketball showdown between Indiana University and Ohio State University to position Indiana against neighboring states.

“As your governor, I want to beat (Ohio State) on Sunday and beat (the state of Ohio) on Monday morning in bringing jobs to the state,” Pence said.

Just hours after touring the Gary Area Career Center, part of the Gary Community School Corp., Pence said he wants to increase spending on traditional K-12 public schools over two years, with the increases in the second year based on school performances.

Pence also pushed for more “parental choice” in educating children, apparently referring to Indiana’s school voucher system, believed to be the most extensive in the country, and more help for vocational training for students and adults who do not go to college.

Getting the state to work together was the main reason for his visit, Pence said.

“It’s just who I am,” he said when asked if his visit was to extend an olive branch to the region. “For me, it’s my hope we can all work together, and that’s not just a bumper sticker for me.”



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