On Wednesday afternoon, the Indiana House Democrats held a press conference regarding the state’s economic relief plan. Gov. Eric Holcomb had originally called for all lawmakers to meet Wednesday, but that special session was postponed to July 25 because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Democrats said they did not want to wait to provide aid for Hoosiers.
“Today we should be here at Indiana Statehouse discussing how we can bring relief to the use of taxpayers,” said Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis. “But we are not doing that. Why? Most likely because behind closed doors somewhere, there was a discussion about how do we impose something on women that will restrict their right to make choices for themselves and their families.
“Imposing a ban on abortion will inevitably lead to about a 33% increase in pregnancy-related deaths for women in my community, which for me causes great consternation and concern,” Breaux added.
While pro-abortion protesters covered the steps in front of the Statehouse to make their voices heard about the potential statewide abortion ban, House Democrats discussed their plans to help Hoosiers during the current period of inflation by way of suspending the state gas tax.
“As you all know, the cost of getting anywhere, even the places that you absolutely need to go— like work, the grocery store, taking your kids to school or daycare—has been far too high in Indiana for months,” said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson.
“That’s why I and others have called for a suspension of the state gas taxes since March. But our colleagues on the Republican side have said no to this proposal, even as Hoosiers pay the highest gas tax ever.”
Indiana is above the national average gasoline price at $4.848 per gallon.
“Hoosiers can cross state lines to fill up cheaper. But my constituents here in Central Indiana cannot do that,” said Austin. “But if we had suspended the gas tax from the end of session in March, they would have already saved $168 if they filled up just once a week on a 15-gallon tank.”
The Democrats also pushed for their Republican counterparts to expand a $225 refund bill—to be taken up in the special session on July 25—to people on Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and disability relief.
“The initial $125 taxpayer refund is nothing to brag about. That was not a decision by Republican leadership,” said Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington. “That was an automatic refund triggered by our $6 billion surplus, which was built on the backs of every taxpayer now struggling to stay afloat. It must also be said that $125 won’t go very far, especially not for filers with families. A taxpayer refund also excludes some of the most vulnerable citizens and cuts communities, small businesses and nonprofits out of the package”
Democrats called for quicker action from Republicans.
“SEA one was signed into law by the governor four months ago. So even if the $225 refund went out today, nearly half of Hoosiers probably wouldn’t see a cent until November,” said Yoder.
“But still, the Republicans are going to push it further and further back for their own ends while turning the other cheek on their voters. Assuming they don’t move the session back again, the additional taxpayer refund will likely be signed into law sometime in early or mid August. That means many Hoosiers would see nothing by early December.”
Hoosiers all around the state are contributing money to Indiana’s surplus tax whether they know it or not by paying sales tax in stores. Indiana currently has a $6.1 billion budget surplus.
“The current inflation we’re seeing means that Hoosiers on a fixed income are getting less goods for more money. That’s why we must include those people in any economic relief with payments,” said Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis. “We must take action to expand it [the refund] to include them.”
As of 2020, more than 127,000 Hoosiers were receiving Social Security benefits, according to the Democratic handout. These individuals aren’t eligible for automatic tax refunds if they do not file taxes.
“They did not receive their $125, and they’re also not on target to get the $225 either. Additionally, young people who were listed as dependent last year—the recent college graduates, the high school students—are also excluded from this,” said Pryor.
“Those who make too little to file income tax returns have the least amount of money to spend and are not even able to live paycheck to paycheck. They need the automatic tax refund money just as much as other people need it—if not more.”