The Indiana General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly approved a deal that provides boosts to social services and inflation relief, with the bill easily clearing both chambers.
Senate Bill 2 now goes to Governor Eric Holcomb. It uses more than $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 by a vote of 93-6 and the Senate passed it by a vote of 37-9.
It also repeals the diaper tax, increases the adoption tax credit and allocates about $74 million in needed supports because of the planned abortion ban.
For state Sen. Travis Holdman, the author of the legislation, paying down the debt was “absolutely” a priority, hence his caucus’ insistence that the bill include a provision to pay $1 billion into the Trust Fund Stabilization of Pensions for educators in 2023 if reserve accounts are maintained. more than $5 billion in total.
“We have a moral and ethical duty to our retired teachers to make sure their fund is fully funded so they get what they were promised,” said Holdman, R-Markle.
State Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, criticized the $1 billion payment for debt obligations, saying the fund’s annual payment was already paid and the money could go to Hoosiers who need it.
Taylor also disapproved of $200 going to taxpayers indiscriminately, instead of focusing the state on helping the poorest Hoosiers.
“Jim Irsay (owner of the Indianapolis Colts) is not going to ask you for $200; I guarantee you’ll never know if it’s coming,” Taylor said.
Taylor joined eight Republicans in voting against the bill.
Other Democrats said the estimated $74 million in funding for social services now wasn’t enough for families, let alone the expected boom in pregnancies after the abortion ban.
The bill “barely scratches the surface of recognizing the concerns for women in this state,” said state Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington. “This bill doesn’t even address the funding to feed the children we already have.”
On the state floor, five Democrats and one Republican voted against the bill, including state Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis.
DeLaney pointed to the confusing process for the poorest Hoosiers, those who typically don’t file taxes because of their low incomes. They will receive a $200 tax credit when they file their 2022 taxes next year.
“Now it’s 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 it is: that “Get out of my house” kind of thing.
He also criticized the roughly $74 million in direct appropriations and discretionary spending for social services, saying the state could and should do more.