One week into the 2022 legislative session, and Republican leaders in the Indiana House and Senate already are at odds over how to address the most high-profile issues: tax cuts and limits on employer vaccine mandates.
Both are top priorities for House Republicans, who formally announced their 2022 legislative agenda on Thursday. Neither made the Senate GOP’s priority list. And while the differences were bubbling up even before the legislative session began, the formal release of written agendas and hard details this week put the contrast in stark black and white.
House Republicans are moving to quickly pass House Bill 1001, which would, most notably, restrict employers who require the COVID-19 vaccine, by making them accept any medical or religious exemption. That provision is coupled with language to put in place administrative actions needed to end the state’s public health emergency.
Senate Republicans are taking their own approach with their top legislation, Senate Bill 3, which mirrors the proposals from HB 1001 to end the state of emergency but leaves out the vaccine mandate language. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he wanted a “clean” emergency order bill, without the controversial vaccine mandate language.
Tax cuts are also the source of differing opinions. House Republicans want to cut four separate taxes—the individual income tax, business personal property tax, sales tax and the utility receipts tax—that would result in $1 billion in tax cuts by 2025.
Senate GOP leaders lean toward caution amid concerns that inflation could slow consumer spending and sales tax collections. When Senate Republicans released their legislative priorities on Tuesday, there was no mention of cutting taxes.
Bray described their agenda as the “nuts and bolts” of what the Senate wants to accomplish this session, leaving out what he called the heavier bills, including vaccine mandates.
“I do not mean to imply that we’re not going to address those. They’re more controversial. They’re more complicated to work through and so they didn’t land on our priority list,” Bray said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, whose fellow Republicans dominate both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly, seems to be siding more with the Senate on these top issues. Though he is pushing for reducing the business personal property tax on new equipment as part of his 2022 agenda, that is the only alignment he has with the House’s tax cut proposal.
Holcomb said on Monday that he was hesitant on the idea of cutting other taxes, wanting to ensure the state has an accurate picture on where it stands financially following several rounds of federal pandemic assistance dollars coming in.
Holcomb also is less than enamored with the vaccine mandate limits in HB 1001. He said he was a “hard yes” on the provisions to end the public health emergency. But when asked if he was a hard no on the vaccine mandate restrictions he said, “we’ll see where it ends up.”
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said on Thursday that he did not think there was much disagreement between his caucus, the Senate and Holcomb.
“Our caucus teams, we talk all the time, and we’ll work through this,” Huston said. “I think it’s good to have different perspectives and, obviously, we feel passionately about ours, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.”
Ultimately, the outcome probably won’t be determined until the waning hours of this regular legislative session, which is required by law to end by March 14.