By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Passage of the first three massive bailout bills by Congress – totaling about $2.4 trillion – gained swift and bipartisan support as lawmakers worked to offset widespread pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the fourth round of proposed funding, known as the Heroes Act, carries a price tag of $3 trillion and is facing division among some Republican lawmakers.
While there are various concerns on both sides of the aisle, one of the apparent biggest points of contention is the $1 trillion in the package for states.
US Rep. Jim Banks, of the Third District, goes as far as to call the bill a “Blue State Bailout” and plans to oppose it when a vote comes up Friday, May 15.
“Hoosier taxpayers should never be on the hook to bail out many years of mismanagement and poor leadership in states like Illinois,” said Banks.
“They’ve made promises to workers with pensions and other benefits that they can’t keep. States like Indiana that are fiscally responsible shouldn’t be punished,” he said.
US Sen. Mike Braun told an Indiana radio station the current bill has no chance of passage in the Senate, but that he would support new legislation that funds anything that lawmakers couldn’t get done in the last relief bill; the caveats were that it must make “common sense” and be done in a way that would not incur significant cost.
But closer to home, several officials expressed support for more funding for Indiana.
Mayor Joe Thallemer, who also serves as president with AIM (Accelerate Indiana Municipalities), said he’s been watching the debate grow in recent days.
He said he can understand concerns over the size of the proposal and shares some concerns over funding that is not directly connected to COVID issues.
“Cities and towns shouldn’t be allowed to fail, given the responsibility of their citizens by utility services, sewer and water, police and fire protection and garbage pick up – these are essentials that cities and towns are struggling with since the property tax caps impacted revenue five or six years ago,” Thallemer said.
Thallemer made the comments Wednesday, May 13, during a news conference about COVID-19.
“Taking the politics out of this thing appears to be the challenge in trying to responsibly assist those most in need and most vulnerable,” he said.
Also at the meeting was Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. Bill Remington, who sounded supportive of another influx of emergency relief money for the state.
“Public health always appreciates more funding … locally, we’re fine,” Remington said.
Remington added that he supports robust vaccine development and more public health infrastructure.
Alan Tio, CEO of Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation, offered his thoughts as well but did not take a strong stand either way.
He said if there are major gaps developing that they would look to elected officials for support.
He pointed to the need for expanded broadband coverage in some areas and suggested that kind of financial support would be a “transformative investment.”