INDIANAPOLIS — An inflation relief bill is moving forward in both chambers of the Indiana Statehouse.
But the bills that passed last week in the chamber where they started are now completely different. The bills have been completely stripped to read like their counterpart legislation. Republican leaders hope to negotiate a compromise by the end of the week that will help Hoosier budgets.
The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee stripped House Bill 1001 Wednesday morning and inserted the language from two Senate bills passed last week before sending the amended bill on to the full Senate. An automatic $225 taxpayer refund is gone from the bill.
"There is no nefarious motive on our part to do anything but to keep the legislation moving forward,” said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-District 19, who chairs the Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee. “But we are in the midst of negotiating with the House on these topics."
The day before, the House Ways and Means committee pulled the same legislative maneuver on Senate Bill 2, so both chambers are sticking with their original plans for inflation relief.
The Senate plan calls for a temporary cap on the gas use tax rate, a six-month suspension of utilities sales tax, and provides $45 million for the establishment of the Hoosier Families First Fund.
Indiana Catholic Conference Executive Director Angela Espada testified before the Senate committee, asking them to consider the taxpayer refund in negotiations moving forward.
"As we look at options for the poor and the vulnerable and the people who need it the most, the credit that goes with a gasoline tax, not everyone has an automobile and will be able to benefit from that,” said Espada. “People who are apartment dwellers who don't pay utilities won't be able to benefit from the tax savings on utilities."
The House plan centers on a $225 automatic taxpayer refund. It also provides $58.5 million dollars to specific programs for women and families and exempts children's diapers from sales tax.
House Republicans are determined that any relief package needs to include a direct check to Hoosiers.
"I think the relief can be for each individual family to determine where they need their relief,” said Rep. Sharon Negele, R-District 13, author of the House bill. “And that's why I like the automatic taxpayer refund. Some families will use it for schoolbooks. Some families will use it for clothing. Some families will use it for gas. Some families will use it for grocery shopping. It's targeted in the sense that they can determine what is best for their family."
The House meets Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. The Senate meets Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Both chambers will consider, debate and vote on amendments to the competing financial packages, and perhaps begin to find compromise.