INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A special session of the Indiana Legislature will begin July 6 to take up the governor’s proposal for sending out $225 payments to all taxpayers from the state’s growing budget surplus.
The Republican-dominated Legislature, however, isn’t limited to the refund issue under the proclamation signed Wednesday by GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. It could take action toward additional abortion restrictions depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a case that could end the nationwide right to abortion.
Holcomb’s action came two weeks after he said he would call a special session in announcing his proposal for providing financial relief amid the worst national inflation in 40 years.
“This is the fastest, fairest and most efficient way to return taxpayers’ hard-earned money during a time of economic strain,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Indiana’s economy is growing and with more than $1 billion of revenue over current projections, Hoosier taxpayers deserve to have their money responsibly returned.”
Republican legislative leaders have signaled support for Holcomb’s proposed tax refund and joined with him in rejecting calls from Democrats for suspending the state’s gasoline taxes, which will grow to 62 cents a gallon starting July 1. That’s up about 50% from the 41 cents per gallon being charged in early 2021.
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne urged Indiana lawmakers to follow President Joe Biden, who called Wednesday for a three-month suspension of the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on gas, saying “surely Indiana can do better than Washington.”
“Why send more of our hard-earned money to Washington in the form of taxes on a refund rather than keeping all the savings in Hoosiers’ pockets?” GiaQuinta said.
The state began distributing $125 payments this spring under the state’s automatic taxpayer refund law because of the growing surplus boosted by federal COVID-19 relief funding. The proposed additional $225 refund payments to each taxpayer would cost the state about $1 billion, according to the governor’s office.
Indiana tax collections have surged about 10% more than last year and could push the state’s cash reserves from last year’s record high of $3.9 billion to about $6 billion by the end of June.
The Legislature ended its regular session for this year in March.
State law allows a special session to last for up to 40 days, but legislators face no limits on what issues they address.
Anti-abortion legislators decided to hold off on major action regarding abortion restrictions during this year’s session until they see the Supreme Court’s decision on a Mississippi law that they hope will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion. That ruling could come by the end of June.
One hundred of the 110 Republican legislators signed a letter in March asking Holcomb to call them back into a special session on abortion if “Roe v. Wade is wholly, or partially, overturned.”
Republican legislative leaders didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on whether they were considering keeping the Legislature in session to possibly take up additional abortion restrictions.