Where Do the Candidates Stand on Taxes?

Date: April 02, 2024

We asked the 8 candidates for governor how they would ease the financial pressure on Indiana's Main Street businesses

The General Assembly is midway through a two-year review of Indiana’s tax system. The state is already reducing the income rate to 2.9%. The review will determine whether the state should make additional changes that would have a big impact on small businesses.

It’s important for Main Street to understand where the candidates for governor stand on taxes. During our gubernatorial candidate forum last month in Fishers, moderator Gerry Dick, host of IBJ Media’s “Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick,” asked all eight gubernatorial candidates this question: “Would you anticipate supporting those findings or do you have your own agenda for tax reform?” Here is a transcription of each candidate’s response, edited lightly for length and clarity:

  • Mike Braun (Republican), U.S. senator: “When you look at a state like ours, that, at least over several years, has gotten used to a decent cash flow, you can always talk about revenues. No. 1, you need to be starting up not to spend more than you take in and do a pretty good job at that. Property taxes, I agree. We had a system that went out of whack because it was following, it had a system that couldn’t respond to inflation like we’ve never seen before. Still contending with that. But the way you finance any lower taxes would be to make our government run more efficiently. And anyone here who’s not signed the front side of the paycheck or had to do that through all of the tools available to you would have to think hard about how that would be done. If you get our 30 agencies running better – and believe me there’s room for improvement – you can finance lower taxes in any one of the categories, but you got to do that first. Otherwise, you’re just saying it with no way to do it.”
  • Brad Chambers (Republican), former commerce secretary: “Let’s start with lowering taxes as much as we can. Indiana today does a pretty good job. Our legislature’s done a pretty good job. We’re in the Top 10 in the country for low taxation. I think the best way to lower everybody’s burden is by growing the top line, adding more taxpayers by growing our population, adding more businesses small and large, to grow the top line and take the top line revenues and fix education, support our police and fire, deal with mental health and healthcare. And oh, by the way, when you have a growing economy, you’re fixing things and improving quality of life, government can be smaller because crime is down, education is better, Medicaid use is down. Grow the top line, add more taxpayers, more people moving to the state, more businesses starting in the state and paying low tax rate. That’s my view of how to win into the future for Indiana.”
  • Suzanne Crouch (Republican), lieutenant governor: “As state representative, I voted for the largest property tax cut in our state’s history. I voted to reduce the corporate income tax, voted to eliminate the inheritance tax. I want to lead the fight to eliminate Indiana state income tax because not only does it give Hoosiers money back and small businesses will be able to grow, but because what happens when we give people money back? They put it into the economy. But equally as important, we end up making Indiana eventually a no-income-tax state which draws workers to Indiana and allows our small businesses to grow and prosper. The Tax Foundation says Indiana is in the Top 10 in the country for our overall environment, but seven of the states ahead of us have no income tax. So when we become a no-income-tax state, not only do Hoosiers benefit, but we attract workers to help fill those 100,000 unfilled jobs in Indiana.”
  • Eric Doden (Republican), president of Pago USA: “I’m clearly in favor of studying this, and I’m really excited that the General Assembly has decided to take this on. We’re going to work very closely with them. If we can eliminate the income tax in a fiscally responsible way, we’re gonna work towards that end, but the key is fiscally responsible. So, if you get rid of the income tax today and just got rid of it right now, it would put a 40% hole, about an $8 billion hole, in the budget. And so without saying what you’re going to eliminate in expenses or without saying how you’re gonna replace the tax, that’s just not responsible. So we’re going to work with the General Assembly to make sure that we do the best we can to have a competitive tax environment that’s fair to the people of Indiana and makes us competitive. But on the property tax side, here’s some of the issues that we’re seeing … some of our elderly really struggling to pay you know, 30 or 40% increase in property taxes. So, we’ve come out and said that we need to fix the property tax for the elderly. They really love this because now they can plan and that will make sure that they cannot lose their home, and I think that’s just the right thing to do.”
  • Curtis Hill (Republican), former Indiana attorney general: “I certainly applaud the General Assembly’s approach to studying the issue. That’s what we need to do. When you’re talking about tax, you have to look at a comprehensive review of what it is that we have government for. That’s the first point. We have government doing things that it shouldn’t be doing, so we need to shrink the size of the movement and identify our ways of increasing revenue. Across the board, taxation is an issue that … who here wants to pay any more taxes than we’re paying to find out? Well, we need to make sure that we’re providing services that are necessary. One of the things that we can immediately do is repeal the gas tax that was put in place just a few years ago and has generated lots of revenue but it has taken money directly out of the pockets. We can go back to the 2018 levels and right away we can save 16 cents per gallon every time you fill up with the tank. That’s a small step in the right direction. Overall we need a comprehensive review of what we want government to do and how we pay for it.”
  • Jennifer McCormick (Democrat), former Indiana superintendent of public instruction: “Yes, I agree with a revamp of our taxing system, but also, it’s about not just how we’re getting in our revenue. It’s about our expenditures that impacts that. Yes, we need to fix our gas tax. Yes, we need to look at income tax. But here’s the thing: There are hidden taxes we’re not having the conversation about. We can applaud ourselves. For the last 20 years the Republicans had their chance. They said we’re keeping all these taxes down. You go ask local people what’s happening with school referendums. You go ask them what’s happening with some of these hidden taxes that are sneaking up on people, and we’re not having that conversation. That is happening because the system we have built is not paying attention to our expenditure priorities. Education is over half of the state budget. I know I was responsible for it – $9 billion at the time, it’s over 10 billion now. Let’s talk about where those dollars are going to understand best what we need to do with that revenue flow of tax reform. But absolutely we need to do something but Republicans have had their chance. They’ve had 20 years.”
  • Donald Rainwater (Libertarian), project manager and software engineer: “Calvin Coolidge said that if you collect more revenue than you need to run the government, it’s legalized robbery…. We need to get rid of the state income tax. We need to put a real cap, not a red herring on our property taxes. We need to do away with all of these. You pay a sales tax. How many of you have business property that you bought and you paid sales tax when you bought it but now you paid excise tax or use tax on it? We’re getting taxed to death. I don’t care whether we’re better than 40 other states. We’re not No. 1, we’re not good enough. And the reality is, not only did I sign the taxpayer protection pledge to say that I’ll veto and oppose any effort to raise taxes but I have pledged that I will veto any state budget that adds one more dollar of spending over what the budget is right now.”
  • Jamie Reitenour (Republican), mother of five: “Taxes are a hard conversation. Indiana is not one-size-fits-all, and that’s really the issue. When you look at Indiana, you’ve got your small towns, you’ve got your cities, you’ve got some that own homes, you’ve got some that don’t. So, this is a hard conversation. It’s not as easy as ‘ax the tax.’ I can tell you that right now, we’re taking a real look at property taxes. That’s what we hear on the ground. We believe that there’s an open door there to have a conversation as to whether or not we would eliminate property tax. A huge conversation, obviously. But it could be something that we put on the table because we see that there are ways, when we look at our economy right now and what the budget is, that we can cut out some of the fraud, waste and abuse and maybe do something really, really important like get rid of property taxes. The other side of the coin is that people 65 and older don’t pay property taxes. We also talked about fixed rate of property taxes when you move into your home. So, we lean more into the property taxes than we do the income tax, and that would be our position.”

The primary election will be May 7 .The deadline for voter registration is April 8. Early voting begins next week. To check your registration status, visit indianavoters.in.gov.

Related Content: Small Business News | Indiana

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