Chances remain to ‘Fly the W’ with wins for Hoosiers this session
With the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly coming down to its final days, we’ll soon see the annual roundups from the media and interest groups analyzing legislative outcomes. There are always some familiar themes, many sports-related, including comparing the session to a basketball game with legislative ‘misses’ and ‘makes’, or football ‘touchdowns’ and ‘fumbles’, or just simple ‘wins’ and ‘losses’, plus the more euphemistic ‘missed opportunities’.
But the bottom line is that each session should be measured simply by asking the question: how many opportunities did the General Assembly take to strengthen Indiana’s communities and improve the lives of Hoosiers?
With that as the standard, there are at least two chances left for Indiana’s legislature to end the 2023 session by ‘Flying the W’ flag: adding a Housing Stability Pilot Fund and reforming the state Earned Income Tax Credit into the biennial budget bill.
Readers may recall that the General Assembly has had a few high-profile misses this session to improve housing stability and affordability, so adding a Housing Stability Pilot Fund would be a badly-needed addition to the ‘win’ column. Despite a legislative Housing Task Force report resolving to “support addressing substandard housing” and a new study showing Indiana is 1 of only 6 states without enforcement measures for habitability standards, our legislative committees refused to hear proposals that would have brought Indiana into the American mainstream.
And despite deciding to dedicate $75 million to a housing infrastructure revolving fund, the legislature chose to focus exclusively on already profitable market rate development, declining requests to prioritize projects that would develop housing that is actually affordable to the Hoosiers who experience the state’s largest housing gaps.
Amid the housing gaps and lack of habitability protections left unaddressed so far this session, an estimated 87,000 Hoosier households, including 150,000 Hoosier kids, remain at risk of eviction. And with ongoing economic disruptions and expiring federal assistance, those families are increasingly vulnerable to homelessness and the damaging health, education, and workforce outcomes that come with it.
An unexpected emergency as small as a flat tire can mean these families have to choose between getting to work and keeping a roof over their heads. And while an already-existing network of community-based organizations has been successfully pinch-hitting by providing housing counseling and case management, with pandemic-related emergency rental assistance running out, they won’t have the resources to actually prevent evictions.
That is why Prosperity Indiana and the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition are urging the General Assembly to include $10 million in the state budget for a Housing Stability Pilot Fund. While this wouldn’t be nearly enough to assist all 87,000 households at risk, the proposed pilot fund would provide the network with the financial flexibility needed to help families with small emergencies like fixing a flat tire or paying a month’s rent while also delivering counseling towards long-term housing stability and home ownership.
Another opportunity for the General Assembly to end this session with a ‘W’ is to make sure that provisions from Rep. Chuck Goodrich’s House Bill 1290 strengthening Indiana’s Earned Income Tax Credit make it over the finish line.
The bill sailed through the House 97-0 and was well-received in a Senate hearing, but struck out by not passing committee before last week’s deadline. That’s why Prosperity Indiana and the Indiana Assets & Opportunities Network are asking the General Assembly to put EITC reforms into the budget bill.
Indiana’s EITC is a powerful tool to help Hoosiers increase their financial stability. The proposed reforms would be a real home run, strengthening the state’s EITC and increasing economic opportunities for low-income working families and eliminating red tape and inefficiencies. The reforms would make the credit work better for larger families with three or more children and those with foster children, would offset the current ‘marriage penalty’, and would increase the percentage of the federal credit we get from 10% to 12%.
While there’s still time before the final score is tallied, the General Assembly shouldn’t end their season without taking advantage of these two opportunities to ‘Fly the W’ with wins for housing stability and economic opportunity for Hoosiers.
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