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House, Senate move towards 'standoff' over taxpayer refund

Republican Chair Tim Brown sits in the House Ways and Means Committee. In front of him is a sign that reads "Representative Brown Chair." Behind him is a small bookshelf.
Ben Thorp
/
WBAA
During a conversation with reporters following the committee, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) said debate is needed over the automatic taxpayer refund.

The House and Senate are quickly moving towards a standoff over whether to send $225 automatic refunds back to eligible Hoosiers.

The House and Senate have competing visions on whether to send a check to eligible Hoosiers and how to provide support for children, pregnant people and families. Lawmakers in the Senate raised concerns that the checks could contribute to inflation, and instead proposed a temporary suspension of sales taxes on both utility bills and gasoline.

During the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, lawmakers quickly inserted the House version of inflation relief into Senate Bill 2 without even holding a hearing on the Senate’s version of inflation relief, SB 3.

Almost immediately after a presentation on the Senate bill from Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), Chair Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) introduced an amendment.

“What Amendment 6 does is actually make this bill parallel or similar to House Bill 1001 special session,” he said.

Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) said it was unclear why the Senate dislikes the taxpayer refund but it doesn’t make sense to send the Senate two versions of the same bill.

“I don’t have any idea what we’re doing, because we’re going to pass something we already passed and the Senate doesn’t like,” he said.

During a conversation with reporters following the committee, Brown said debate is needed over the automatic taxpayer refund.

“I think we have to have the discussion over the automatic taxpayer refund,” he said. “It seems like that is where the Senate is having their holdup on 1001. If we get that worked through we’ll be able to move the bill through.”

Rep. Chris Campbell (D-West Lafayette) agreed those differences need to be resolved.

“Senate Bill 3 was not heard and in the Senate, House Bill 1001 has not been heard, it’s basically a standoff,” she said.

The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee is expected to hear House Bill 1001 on Wednesday.

The amended bill does leave in a Senate adoption tax credit while cutting out the $45 million for the Hoosier Families First Fund. Brown estimates the amended bill changed the amount going to family supports from $45 million to roughly $60 million.

READ MORE: Indiana Senate easily approves its version of inflation relief

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During committee, Democrats proposed a handful of amendments including their own changes to the state gas tax, extra support for domestic violence victims and a program supporting children with developmental delays.

Those all failed, with the House chair saying they were beyond the scope of the bill.

During public testimony, however, representatives were encouraged to put more child and family supports into the bill – a now common refrain on the legislation.

Allison Missler, a foster parent who has welcomed more than 70 children to her home, said she was “weary” of the empty promises of state lawmakers.

“We have to stop talking about cases and start talking about children and families,” Missler said.

Shannon Schumacher is the president and CEO of the Villages of Indiana, the state’s largest private child and family welfare agency. She said the bill will be a “drop in the bucket” if abortion restrictions go through.

“If we have 300 more children that enter the foster care system as a result of more babies born, we know we’re going to have more babies born, that’s $14 million right there just to pay for providers like us and foster parents,” Shumacher said.

The House Ways and Means committee unanimously passed the bill. It now heads to the full House.

Contact reporter Violet at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen. Follow WBAA's Ben Thorp at @sad_radio_lad on Twitter.