INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana House approved a major change to Senate Bill 2 – a combination of proposals addressing inflation relief and funding for women and families – during a long session Thursday afternoon.
Amendment 37, introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, was passed by a 67-28 vote.
The amendment is a compromise between Republican leadership in the House and Senate and combines elements from the original texts of three separate bills. The two supermajority caucuses entered the special session with drastically different ideas on their budget bills but appear to have ultimately reached an agreement.
As amended, SB 2 would send $200 automatic taxpayer refund payments to Hoosiers who filed taxes last year, $25 less than Gov. Eric Holcomb’s initial proposal. It would also provide a $200 refundable tax credit to people who aren’t eligible for the refund but who receive Social Security benefits and aren’t claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax return this year.
SB 2 would now transfer $1 billion in 2023 – if the state has sufficient funds – to the pension stabilization fund, a priority of Senate Republicans, and would cap the state gas tax at 29.5 cents until July 1, 2023.
The new SB 2 also incorporates elements of both chambers’ proposals for funding aimed at assisting women, children and families.
It includes $45 million for the new Hoosier Families First Fund, money that would be allocated by the state’s budget agency to the Department of Child Services, the Family and Social Services Administration, the Indiana Department of Health and the state’s Department of Homeland Security. From there, it would provide funding for new and existing programs including those that support pregnant and postpartum women, assist foster and adoptive families and help low-income families with young children.
In addition, SB 2 would now give roughly $29 million in funding directly to existing programs, including $10 million for the Child Care and Development Fund voucher program and $10 million to expand the Nurse Family Partnership program.
However, the amendment cut additional funding for Medicaid coverage for supplies and services to $700,000 – significantly less than the $30 million first proposed in the House.
It also removed requirements for Medicaid coverage for prenatal screenings as well as labor and delivery, as well as a requirement for license bureaus to display signage encouraging Hoosiers with questions about adoption, foster care or pregnancy to visit a state website.
The adoption tax credit would be refundable and would still increase under the new version of the bill, from $1,000 to $2,500 – a quarter of the $10,000 introduced in the Senate’s first plan.
A short amendment to SB 2, put forward by Rep. Ann Vermilion, R-Marion, also passed the House. It directs the Indiana Department of Health to evaluate the feasibility of local health departments providing low- to no-cost birth control.
The Republican-controlled chamber defeated many changes proposed by House Democrats, often by wide margins, but one amendment came within a single vote of passage.
Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, proposed allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control, a practice already allowed in at least 20 states. Lawmakers from across the aisle spoke in support of the proposal, including Vermilion and Rep. J. Michael Davisson, R-Salem. However, it ultimately failed 49-48.
House Speaker Todd Huston said he talked with Fleming after the vote about the future of that issue during next year’s session.
“It’s something I’m going to make sure we work on next year, that we vet,” Huston said. “I would say it will have a lot of attention next year getting it across the finish line.”
The total expenditure on services for women, children and families – the wraparound services portion of SB 2 – checks in at around $80 million, Huston said.
As for the rest, it checks the boxes for each caucus’s major priorities: paying down the pre-1996 Teacher’s Retirement Fund for the Senate and providing automatic taxpayer refunds for the House.
Rep. Brown said Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray were able to find common ground on the bill and that he’s confident the Senate will “look favorably” on it today. He also said he’s glad the taxpayer refund was included.
“This is people getting their money back so they can use it how they see fit,” Brown said.
The governor announced he’s “extremely pleased” with the advancement of SB 2 in a statement released following Thursday’s session.