Bell: Partisan Agenda Makes Senate Bill 23 Impossible to Support

Monday, March 1, 2010 7:00 pm

Start Date:  3/1/2010  All Day  
End Date:  3/1/2010    

STATEHOUSE- Numerous poison pills added to Senate Bill (SB) 23 weakened a positive amendment that would have repealed a tax increase on Hoosier employers passed last year by a party line vote in the House of Representatives. Rep. Matt Bell (R-Avilla) could not in good faith support SB 23, which passed by an 82-17 vote.

"There is no doubt in my mind that employers need this tax delay or repeal in order to save the jobs they have and create new ones," Rep. Bell said. "But I could not justify voting in favor of an amended bill that would place a heavy burden on business owners."

The Unemployment Trust Fund is currently operating under a $1.5 billion deficit. In effort to make the fund solvent, during the 2009 legislative session, House Democrats passed legislation to increase unemployment premiums on over 80,000 Hoosier employers ranging from $9-748 per employee. This legislation passed without one House Republican vote because it did not address all the fund's problems.

During the 2010 legislative session, Republicans authored Senate Bill (SB) 23 to delay the unemployment tax increase for one year, in an effort to save and grow Hoosier jobs. As the bill moved through the legislative process several amendments were added to the bill.

Amendments to Senate Bill 23:

Repeals House Enrolled Act 1379 (from 2009) to increase unemployment insurance tax premiums on businesses.

Increases weekly benefits by 4% per week for those already receiving the maximum allotment at a time when the trust fund is already losing a tremendous amount of money.

Removes requirements to apply for a job on weekly basis.

Chips away at taxpayer protection on their property taxes by increasing the construction referendum requirements: from $10 to $15 million for elementary schools and $20 to $30 million for high schools and $12 to $18 million for any other project.

Allows any third party to file a complaint claiming an employer is misclassifying workers, which can result in an investigation of the employment relationship between an individual and a contractor/subcontractor by the Department of Labor.

"In the right hand, you have a repeal of the tax increase, which would allow businesses time to recover from the struggling economy, Rep. Bell said. "Then in the left hand, you're going to take that away by increasing unemployment benefits and eroding property tax protection. Despite the necessity of the tax delay, the weight of the left hand proved to be too much."

Next week, conference committees will allow for the House and Senate to meet together and work out the final details of SB 23. Once an agreement is met by all four caucuses, the bill will go back to each chamber for a final vote.

"I can only hope that during the conference committee process, these wasteful amendments are removed," Rep. Bell said. "We need to delay or repeal the tax increase until a better solution can come forth: Nothing less, nothing more."