The Daily Reformer
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Senate’s budget proposal was shared with the public on Thursday. It includes more money for education and mental health, but it removes a potential cigarette tax increase proposed by the house.
“We thought this could have been a year to go big, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be, but we are not going to give up,” said Indiana Hospital Association President Brian Tabor.
Senate Republicans nixed the idea to save it for what they believe will be a rainier day.
“At some point, the federal government is going to cut us off on Medicaid and we are going to need that,” explained State Sen. Ryan Mishler, the Republican Chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Still, many health advocates feel a $2.00 per pack tax increase is needed now.
“We know that it will mean that many, many Hoosiers will stop smoking, they’ll seek the help that’s available and it will save lives,” said Tabor.
Senate Democrats proposed a $1.00 per pack increase but that was not included in the Senate version.
There is, however, a small e-liquid tax in the proposal.
“The revenue on the vape products is not going to be significant at all,” said Mishler. “So, the reason to do it wasn’t so much for the revenue as the parody to tell these kids that it’s dangerous.”
The Senate proposal also puts about $150 million toward mental health.
“it really has declined if we look at many metrics across the state during the pandemic and mental health is just as essential as our physical health,” said Tabor.
Education is another area the Senate proposal differs from the house budget.
Senate Republicans approved giving more than $400 million new dollars for K-12 tuition support. It still expands the voucher program but not as much.
Senate Democrats want any increase to go to public schools and or teacher pay.
“We still have a long way to go around that conversation,” said Democratic State Sen. Eddie Melton.
The house and Senate will discuss the differences in the coming weeks.
To read more about the Senate’s proposal, click here.