House, Senate OK financial relief bill

Indiana Capital Chronicle/Niki KellyThe Indiana House voted 93-6 Friday to approve a package of supports for women and children; as well as send $200 surplus checks to taxpayers. The Senate approved it on a 37-9 vote. It now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The Indiana General Assembly broadly approved a deal providing boosts to social services and inflation relief on Friday, with the bill clearing both chambers easily.

Senate Bill 2 now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb. It uses over $1 billion in reserve accounts to send $200 checks to millions of eligible Hoosiers, including hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers who use Social Security or disability benefits.

The bill passed the House on a 93-6 vote and the Senate approved it on a 37-9 vote.

It also repeals the diaper tax, increases the adoption tax credit and allocates about $74 million in supports needed due to an expected abortion ban.

For state Sen. Travis Holdman, the author of the legislation, paying down debt was “absolutely” a priority, hence his caucus’ insistence the bill include a provision to pay $1 billion to the Pension Stabilization Fund for educators in 2023 if reserve accounts hold more than $5 billion combined.

“We have a moral and ethical duty to our retired teachers to make sure that their fund is fully funded so that they receive what has been promised to them,” Holdman, R-Markle, said.

State Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, criticized the $1 billion payment for debt obligations, saying the fund’s annual payment was already paid and money could be directed to Hoosiers who needed it.

Taylor also disapproved of the $200 going to taxpayers indiscriminately, rather than the state focusing on helping the poorest of Hoosiers.

“Jim Irsay (owner of the Indianapolis Colts) is not going to ask you for $200; I guarantee you he’s never going to know if it hits,” Taylor said.

Taylor joined eight Republicans and voted against the bill.

Other Democrats said the estimated $74 million in funding for social services wasn’t enough for families now, much less the anticipated boom in pregnancies following an abortion ban.

The bill "really does barely scratch the surface of recognizing the concerns for women in this state,” state Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, said. “This bill does not even address funding for feeding children we already have.”

Across the Statehouse, five Democrats and one Republican rejected the bill, including state Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis.

DeLaney noted the confusing process for the poorest Hoosiers, those who normally don’t file taxes because of their low income. They will receive a $200 tax credit when they file their 2022 taxes next year.

“It’s now a combination of some bad ideas from the Senate and limited ideas from the House,” DeLaney said. “It reminds me of when my kids would frustrate me, I’d just say, ‘Here’s $20. Go do something.’ And that’s what this is – that kind of ‘Just get out of my house.’”

He also criticized the roughly $74 million in direct appropriations and discretionary spending for social services, saying the state could, and should, do more.

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