Editor's note: This story was originally published in September. In light of the vice presidential debate, it's worth taking another look at Mike Pence's economic record and how it might translate to the vice presidency. Take a look at how Donald Trump's economic policies would impact the U.S. economy, too.
The New York Times reported in July that Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in May reached out to a senior adviser to John Kasich, asking whether he would like to be his father's running mate. Whoever got the slot, he said, would be the most powerful vice president in history, in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. Trump's charge would be "making America great again."
The Ohio governor declined the offer, but another Midwest governor -- Mike Pence of Indiana -- stepped up to the plate.
Voters ought to know what the implications of Trump's policies would be on the U.S. economy, but given that Pence may be at least partly taking the reins, it is worth paying attention to his record, too. Under Pence, Indiana's GDP growth, changes in unemployment rate and other economic factors ran roughly in line with national averages and, in some instances, were better than neighboring states.
What Pence Did
Those who know Pence describe him as a classic conservative on both fiscal and social issues. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 through 2012 and as governor of Indiana since 2013, Pence largely stuck to the GOP playbook.
"He, in many respects, is a classic conservative Republican at this time," said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics. "His goal is to eliminate regulation, to lower tax burdens, to do basically the expected things from a conservative Republican."
When Pence arrived at the governor's mansion, Indiana's state budget was already reduced due to revenue losses from the financial crisis, and he made an effort to keep it that way.
"Governor Pence's approach is, 'Hey, we kind of like state government smaller than it was, and we're going to keep it there,'" said Larry DeBoer, a professor of agricultural economics at Indiana's Purdue University.
Pence made that happen by enacting and accelerating a series of tax cuts. In 2014, he hosted a group of tax experts and thought leaders in Indiana to focus on overhauling and simplifying his state's tax code.
He led the way in reducing the state's flat income tax by 5%. The rate dropped to 3.3% from 3.4% in early 2015 and will go to 3.23% in early 2017. He worked to accelerate the elimination of the inheritance tax and the reduction of the state's corporate tax rate. It will drop from 6.5% in 2015 to 4.9% in 2021.
"That amounts to somewhere in the neighborhood of $650 million in revenue that is not being collected, which is the thing that's keeping appropriations lower as a share of the economy than it's been in 20 years," said DeBoer.
The reduced tax revenue has led to slower growth in education funding, which comprises the largest proportion of Indiana's state budget, as well as Medicaid and health and social services.
"He has viscerally approached public policy as a conservative," said Mike Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. "But I don't think, whether or not you agree with that approach, that you would look at the pure economic policies that he approached and say they are anything other than fairly pragmatic."
One such example comes in Medicaid. Unlike many Republican governors who eschewed Obamacare's Medicaid expansion altogether, Pence accepted the program. However, he put a conservative twist on what was dubbed the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, which expanded access to Medicaid for low-income Indiana residents while at the same time requiring them to share more of the cost.
According to data from Families USA, Indiana's Medicaid expansion stands to benefit up to 320,000 residents.
Pence championed Indiana's existing "On My Way Pre-K" pilot program, a grant program for low-income children. He refused federal preschool funding in 2014 but this year expressed interest in it. He has also spearheaded the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, a blended public-private urban renewal program.
"He brought strong conservative bonafides to the political environment of Indiana, but he didn't let those concerns overrule the pragmatic needs of the state at any point in terms of economic policy," said Hicks.