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Indiana House Democratic Caucus leaders unveil Economic Freedom Agenda

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Today, House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) was joined by Democratic Floor Leader Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis), Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) and Ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) to unveil the House Democratic Caucus’ Economic Freedom Agenda. 

The Economic Freedom Agenda comprises four issue areas: 

1.      Building power for working people and holding corporations accountable to the workers who keep them running; 

  • Raise minimum wage to $15/hour

  • Reform last year’s HEA 1002 into a bill that sets up young people with good-paying jobs

  • Protect Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) 

  • Make union dues tax-deductible

  • Crack down on worker misclassification (Prevent workers from being over-taxed by banning employers from making employees classify themselves as individual companies, instead of employees)

2.      Cutting homeowners and renters a better deal; 

  • $250 property tax credit for all homeowners 

  • Over 65 deduction for seniors 

  • Increase renter’s deduction

  • Stop utilities from making customers bear the cost of doing business and keep utility bills for Hoosiers down

  • Fair housing protections (fair appraisals and mortgages and cracking down on predatory investors hurting neighborhoods)

3.      Setting Hoosier kids and families up for success through childcare and early learning; and 

  • Child and dependent care income tax credit 

  • Establish a statewide pre-K program 

  • Increase before and after school care funding 

4.      Making good on promises to retirees and keeping Hoosiers insured.  

  • Guarantee a 13th check and cost-of-living adjustment for PRF and TRF retirees 

  • Protect Medicaid and increase reimbursement rates for healthcare professionals

During the press conference, which directly followed GiaQuinta’s address to the full House of Representatives, the Democratic Leader called on his Republican colleagues to join his caucus in assisting Hoosier workers through raising the state minimum wage and supporting labor unions through protecting project labor agreements on public construction projects.  

“This past year, 22 states chose to increase their minimum wage,” GiaQuinta said. “Despite the rising costs of living, Indiana’s Republican-led legislature has resolved to keep our minimum wage stagnant. Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25, which Indiana stubbornly adheres to. While wages are stalled, Hoosier families are left scrambling to afford necessities like food, health insurance, rent and childcare. 

“Union workers should not be forced to accept worse conditions for worse pay,” GiaQuinta continued. “Doing so puts our public works projects at risk of avoidable delays that end up costing more than whatever was saved on wages. I am not willing to step over a dollar to pick up a dime.” 

Part of the House Democratic Caucus agenda is cutting homeowners and renters a better deal, including a $250 property tax credit for all Hoosier homeowners and increasing the renter's deduction.  

“Our property tax system for homeowners is unable to weather upswings or downswings in valuation,” Pryor said. “Property tax bills statewide averaged 18% higher last year than the previous year, according to an analysis by the Association of Indiana Counties and Policy Analytics. All homeowners need to be cut a break. The simplest way to do this is by giving homeowners a $250 credit on their first property tax bill of 2025, entirely funded by the state surplus. This is the simplest way to execute the relief without cutting the funding of local governments and public school systems.” 

House Democrats will also fight for fair appraisals and mortgages and work to crack down on predatory investors hurting neighborhoods throughout session. 

Throughout the 2024 session, House Democrats hope to set Hoosier kids and families up for success through expanding childcare accessibility and enhancing Indiana’s educational outcomes through universal pre-K and addressing low literacy rates among elementary school students. 

“Child care is essential public infrastructure, infrastructure that is critical to our economy,” Hamilton said. “When parents can’t provide quality care for their children, they cut back hours or leave the work force altogether. We must focus on ensuring access to affordable high quality child care for infants through school age children. Annually, Indiana loses $1.1 billion in economic activity and $118 million in lost tax revenue because our child care system is failing.” 

Hamilton and the House Democratic Caucus are advocating for a childcare tax credit to assist more families in finding care for their children. Further, the caucus is continuing to advocate for a universal pre-K system for Indiana.

“Establishing a statewide pre-K system is a long overdue solution to childcare access and affordability - one that has significant benefits to children’s educational success, as well as families and the economy,” Hamilton said. “Indiana is one of only six states in the nation that has not established a universal pre-K system. Last year, the Republicans passed a budget that expanded the school voucher program to allow families making up to $220,000 a year to send their child to a private school. But if your family makes a little more than $45,000, the state finds you too rich to qualify for state-funded pre-K.”  

 This session, House Democrats will also be fighting for a 13th check and cost of living adjustment (COLA) for state retirees. The 2023 legislative session was the first time in 30 years that public retirees did not receive either, despite inflation being the highest it's been since 1991. Further, House Democrats will continue their fight to protect and expand Medicaid for the millions of Hoosiers who rely on the program for health care access.  

“As lawmakers, we have an obligation to ensure no one, particularly some of our most vulnerable citizens, gets left behind,” Porter said. “It’s unconscionable that Statehouse Republicans rushed through a biennial budget last year which left out public employees. This year, we’re calling on our Republican colleagues to do the right thing and make this happen for eligible retirees.” 

On Dec. 19, 2023, members of the State Budget Committee learned Medicaid will be underfunded in Indiana by roughly $3 billion, including $1 billion in state money and $2 billion in federal money.  

“This critical public program helps over one-third of Hoosiers access health care, and now, access to that care is in jeopardy,” Porter continued. “Before this unacceptable blunder was made public just a few weeks ago, programs such as Applied Behavioral Therapy for autism and pediatric dentistry were already severely underfunded. I shudder to think what will happen to countless Hoosiers and their families – particularly Hoosiers living in poverty and Hoosiers of color – if we don’t take immediate action to not just get to the bottom of how such a huge error was not caught by those tasked with crafting our state budget, but to create safeguards to protect the millions of Hoosiers who rely on Medicaid coverage to keep themselves and their families healthy.”  

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