The House and Senate inked a compromise on $200 refunds for Hoosier taxpayers and they earmarked about $75 million to social services programs for mothers and children as a result of the state’s abortion ban.
Both chambers voted Friday in favor of Senate Bill 2 — a companion to Senate Republican’s Senate Bill 1 , which bans all abortion in the state with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life and health of the mother. The House approved Senate Bill 1 Friday and the Senate was set to debate it late into Friday evening past press time. Check indystar.com for details.
On Senate Bill 2, the House voted first on Friday to pass the legislation by 93-6. The Senate voted later in the afternoon to approve the bill, 37-9. It now awaits a signature from Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Holcomb, who called for a special session in late June to utilize the state’s $1 billion surplus for inflation relief, said he is pleased with Senate Bill 2, which has undergone several changes over the past two weeks.
“The contents of this current bill now reflect strong contributions from all corners of the General Assembly, and I look forward to signing it as soon as it arrives on my desk,” Holcomb said in a statement.
Under the bill, every Hoosier taxpayer will receive a $200 taxpayer refund, down by $25 from the initial proposal in order to include those receiving Social Security and disability benefits, Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said during floor discussion Thursday.
This proposal also includes a tax exemption for an adopted child, cuts the state’s tax on children's diapers, caps the gas tax and increases the adoption tax credit.
Democrats hoped the bill would have more money for social programs
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, one of the bill’s authors, is one of a few Republicans to speak on the bill in the Senate.
Holdman said he appreciated the Senate's support of "wraparound services to help pregnant women, infants and adoptive families."
Democratic Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, questioned Holdman on the changes made to the bill, specifically the state’s budget agency handling the newly created Hoosier Families First Fund. The state budget agency will use that fund to put money into social services programs.
“I think it's a terrible idea to give this to the budget agency because they're not an elected body, and they're going to have to make a decision as to whether or not this $45 million actually goes to the things that we know are going to be needed after we pass Senate Bill 1,” Taylor said.
It will also be reviewed by the state’s budget committee, Holdman said. That body does include elected officials.
Taylor voted against the bill. A handful of Senate Democrats also shared their disapprovalfor how little spending is being allocated in the bill for social services programs and inflation relief.
Bill caps the gas tax
There is $1 billion of surplus reserves pledged to the pension stabilization fund in 2023 and a cap on the state’s gas tax of no more than 0.295 cents per gallon. Indiana's gas tax fluctuates with the market.
In June, gas taxes in Indiana consisted of a 29-cent sales tax per gallon, which is calculated each month based on the retail price of gasoline; a 33-cent license tax per gallon, which is tied to inflation; and the 18.4-cent federal gas tax per gallon, unchanged since 1997.
“We’re not suspending the gas tax, we’re putting a cap on what you pay,” Taylor said. “During a time when we know the amount you pay on that tax is already going down.”
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the bill is better than a “poke in the eye” in that it gives support to expectant mothers and children.
“But I have to say I consider this bill sort of like window dressing makes the window look nice, pretty and everything,” Lanane said. “And then you go and you look in the window and you know what's in there, it’s Senate Bill 1 taking your rights here in Indiana.”
Sen. Shelli Yoder, a Democrat from Bloomington, said Senate Bill 2 puts women at risk because it allocates money into pregnancy resource centers, like Real Alternatives. The centers lack transparency, she said.
"This is not good enough for Hoosier women," Yoder said.
Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, said she was voting for the bill but she’s disappointed that specific issues are not being addressed while the General Assembly seeks to pass abortion legislation during the special session.
“I'm disappointed that we haven't done more to actually help women, babies and children in our state,” Hamilton said.
Automatic taxpayer refund being doled out, too
The taxpayer refund is in addition to the state's automatic taxpayer refunds, which began being issued in the spring. Qualifying Hoosiers receive $125 each for that separate payment.
For those who have yet to receive a $125 refund check,if the bill is signed they would be sent a $325 check, which would include the newly passed proposed $200 refund, Brown said.
For Hoosiers who do not make enough to file taxes, they can file a return for 2022 in fiscal year 2023 to get a $200 credit, Brown said.
Thus far, about half of Hoosiers have received their $125 tax refund, the Department of Revenue said last week,which was released as a result of a surplus in state revenue during the 2021 fiscal year.
Here's how the 75M would be spent
Social services programs for expectant mothers and children are wrapped into the bill.
The the bill includes:
$45 million to establish Hoosier Family Fund, which will distribute funds through the Department of Health and Department of Homeland Security
$2 million to Real Alternatives, a crisis pregnancy center
$10 million to expand the Nurse Family Partnership program
More than $5 million to the Safety PIN grant fund
$10 million to Child Care and Development Fund voucher program
Rachel Fradette is a general assignment reporter at IndyStar. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @Rachel_Fradette.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: House, Senate approve Indiana taxpayer refund, family services bill