“We’ve seen unemployment drop in the state of Indiana,” Pence said, referring to October’s 7.6 percent jobless rate, the lowest in five years. “More than 21,000 thousand jobs have been added since we took office in the last 10 months.
“So continuing to promote policies that will encourage investment and jobs will also impact the resources that the state of Indiana has.”
Pence noted that Indiana currently spends no state dollars on pre-kindergarten. He wants to change that by expanding the state’s current school voucher program to allow low-income families to send children to a private preschool or a public school that charges for pre-school programs.
A similar measure proposed by House Republicans last year was killed when it reached the GOP-controlled Senate, where opponents said early childhood education should be the duty of parents.
Pence called the issue critical.
“I’m someone who really does believe that, at the end of the day, the best pre-K is always going to be a prosperous family that’s able to provide the kind of enrichment in their home that every child needs and deserves,” he said. “The reality is, for many of our most vulnerable kids, that’s not the case.”
Pence made little mention of the most contentious issue facing the General Assembly — a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — though he acknowledged it as a “divisive issue.”
“My position on this has been clear all along. I believe in traditional marriage,” he said.
But Pence said he also wants to expand the conversation about family to include reducing the state’s high infant mortality rate, expanding services to military families and supporting alternatives to prison.
He also wants to increase state tax deductions that individuals can take for themselves and their children. Exemptions that were put in place decades ago — $1,000 for an individual and $1,500 for a child — haven’t kept pace with inflation, he said.