The Indiana House approved a bill Friday that would provide $200 rebate payments from the state’s surging budget surplus.
Though below Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's initially proposed $225 refunds, the measure represents a concession from GOP senators who were initially reluctant, concerned the rebates would further fuel inflation.
“I think we have a good bill going forward to the Senate,” said Republican Rep. Tim Brown, who sponsored the bill. Brown said Thursday that the package was an agreement with Senate negotiators, who could consider the bill later Friday.
That compromise includes utilizing about $1 billion from the state’s record $6.1 billion in cash reserves for the rebates. Another approximately $1 billion will flow toward a state teacher pension fund’s future obligations, a debt Senate Republican leaders have prioritized paying.
The bill passed 93-6, with several Democrats — many of whom voted against the bill Thursday, when legislators first broached the deal — in favor of the funding Friday.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Porter criticized Republican lawmakers on Friday for not seriously considering their amendments to the bill.
Democrats had argued that the pension debt was manageable and that the $1 billion could go toward more pressing needs such as education, improving public health and supporting child care programs.
“I'm going to vote yes because a little bit is better than nothing,” Porter said in debate. “We love this state like you love the state. But when it comes to what we have to say, it falls on deaf ears.”
Indiana senators on July 29 approved a $45 million spending bill without rebates for state agencies that “support the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants,” especially among low-income families. The services would be available for families with children under 4 years old and for those who adopt.
Lawmakers retained elements of the House's relief bill also passed July 29, including repealing the state tax on children’s diapers.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers