Holcomb signs abortion ban, rebate payment bills

Republican Rep. Tim Brown, center, listens to Democratic Rep. Gregory Porter, right, speak at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, on a bill that would issue $200 rebate payments to taxpayers and allocate $45 million more in the coming year toward state agencies that support families, young children and people who adopt. The House passed the relief bill Aug. 5, 2022 with support from both caucuses. (AP Photo/Arleigh Rodgers)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor signed a relief bill Friday night that will provide $200 rebate payments from the state’s surging budget surplus.

Though below his initially proposed $225 refunds, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said the measure “fulfills what I set out to accomplish when calling the General Assembly into special session” and establishes “long overdue increased funding” for families and young children.

The bill, which passed earlier Friday 37-9, represented a concession from GOP senators who were initially wary that the rebates would further fuel inflation.

Sen. Travis Holdman, who sponsored the bill, said the funding was to ensure “pregnant women and children are taken care of as best we can” in the wake of an abortion ban bill that the governor also signed Friday night after Senators approved the restrictions.

Republican Rep. Tim Brown, who sponsored the spending and relief bill in the House, said Thursday the package was an agreement with Senate negotiators.

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.

Though several Senate Democrats voted in favor of the Senate bill, they said they were unhappy with its outcome.

“They got the short end of the stick, and it’s their money,” Democratic Leader Greg Taylor said of Indiana taxpayers. He voted against the bill.

Democrats in the House had similar concerns, arguing that the pension debt included in the bill 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,” Rep. Gregory Porter said earlier Friday. “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 first 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.