[r51] Dodge Report (5/4/2007)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Start Date: 5/4/2007 All Day
End Date: 5/4/2007

The General Assembly adjourned the 2007 session just minutes before midnight on Sunday, April 29th.  In the closing hours, several major pieces of legislation were sent to the Governor including the State budget and the Healthy Hoosier Plan.

The General Assembly's deadline to adjourn session is midnight on April 29th and after four months of development and debate, about an hour before the deadline; this year's budget bill was passed.  I voted against the budget because it did not adequately provide immediate property tax relief for the average homeowner, created inequitable education funding for local schools, and spent too many taxpayer dollars on increased program funding that could have provided general tax relief. 

While the budget does include a provision that will provide property tax rebate checks to property owners, it unfortunately will require taxpayers to first pay their exorbitant property tax bill, and then receive a rebate check in the mail.  This will bring the projected 24 percent increase down to about a nine percent increase, which is still extremely high. County officials will begin sending the state funded rebate checks this fall.  The rebate checks sent to homeowners will reduce increases by 15 percent.  

On the surface this sounds like a good plan but the problem with granting relief in the form of a fall rebate check is Hoosiers will still have to pay the forecasted dramatic increases before they receive the state relief.  This will also create a tremendous strain for local officials because they will be responsible for handling the rebates.  The costs of printing and mailing checks, establishing processes, and training employees are unclear. At this point, the plan creates many unknown problems for local officials and Hoosier homeowners.  

While I was disappointed with the budget, as a member of the Public Health Committee, I was particularly pleased to see the Governor's Healthy Hoosier Plan passed.  The program is a market based, consumer powered and consumer driven health care plan that will provide health insurance to low income uninsured Hoosiers.  Participants will receive $300,000 of annual insurance coverage with up to $1 million of lifetime coverage. In addition, they will receive up to $500 of preventive care services and a $1,100 personal health care account will be established to which participants contribute two to five percent of their gross income.  There are approximately 560,000 uninsured Hoosiers and this is the beginning of a solution for them. 

I enjoyed representing all of you at the Statehouse this session and encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns.  I may be reached by phone at 1-800-382-9841, e-mail me at h51@in.gov or send letters to 200 W. Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204. 

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