- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One of Gov. Mike Pence’s major legislative priorities faces an uncertain fate after a key GOP leader said Thursday that there is not enough support to advance the Republican governor’s desired $42 million funding boost for his Regional Cities initiative.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said that GOP members of the House Ways and Means committee are opposed to the governor’s proposal and would likely remain so “without extra help.”

Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks struck an optimistic tone in an emailed statement.

“Governor Pence believes the regional cities initiative is critical to retaining and attracting a quality workforce for Indiana’s growing economy and is confident the General Assembly will meet this important need for hardworking Hoosier families,” Brooks wrote.

This is not the first time GOP leaders have clashed with Pence over his signature Regional Cities program, which pitted metro regions against each other in a competition for $84 million to pay for quality-of-life improvements.

Pence first proposed the idea to skeptical lawmakers last year and eventually won them over. But when winners of the competition were announced in December, three regions were selected - not the two that were planned. Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend were the chosen regions.

At the time, Pence called on lawmakers to increase funding for the program up to $126 million in order to accommodate the additional winner.

After Pence made the surprise announcement, Bosma responded icily, suggesting “a phone call probably would have been in order from the administration on that.”

On Thursday, Bosma said that Pence’s plan goes beyond the agreement that was struck with lawmakers last year, adding that it was a “‘our word is our bond’ kind of deal.”

“We struck a deal last year,” Bosma said. “Those who object to it, that is what they are saying.”

But Bosma also hinted that he may be looking for additional leverage on the House GOP’s roads funding plan, which would boost the gas tax by 4 cents per-gallon while adding $1 to the price of a pack of cigarettes. The plan Is bottled up in the state Senate. Pence opposes the plan because it would raise taxes at a time when the state has large surpluses and a good credit rating.

“It would make some sense for those items to proceed together,” Bosma said. “I think something like that might convince some of our folks to come on board.”

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