KPC News. May 9, 2021.

Editorial: Legislature not kind to unemployed

When the Legislature was entering its final days, Indiana lawmakers were particularly proud of themselves for providing record funding for education.

As we all know, or at least should, this record increase in funding came from the American Rescue Plan, an act of Congress signed into law by President Joe Biden and not supported by Republicans. It was the law that provided nearly $2 trillion in funding for a variety of programs, including $1,400 stimulus checks and billions of dollars of funding for state and local government.

Indiana, like all other states, received huge windfalls. Indiana ended up flush with cash and the Legislature used this money to shore up programs.

Happy days in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately, our lawmakers decided the windfall would not be shared with those who were unfortunate enough in 2020 to lose their jobs for whatever reason, but most likely due to the downturn in the economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means people who received unemployment compensation through standard and supplementary programs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last year — will not receive the same treatment with Indiana tax law as they do with federal tax law.

Unemployment compensation is taxable income for 2020 in Indiana but not with federal tax returns for most earners.

If your modified adjusted gross income is less than $150,000, the American Rescue Plan enacted on March 11 excludes from income up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid in 2020. That means you don’t have to pay tax on unemployment compensation of up to $10,200, information from the IRS says.

On April 22, the Legislature passed an update to Indiana’s conformity to the Internal Revenue Code, but specifically decoupled from certain provisions of the code, and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed this into law on April 29.

As a result, you cannot apply the same federal unemployment compensation exclusion on your 2020 Indiana individual income tax return and that income must be added back in. However, you may be eligible for a deduction that could reduce or even eliminate any state tax due on your unemployment compensation.

For Indiana taxpayers, this means some people who were looking at receiving a refund from their taxes are now having to pay additional state income tax.

With the billions coming into the state’s pocketbook, the Legislature should have found it in their collective hearts to give the less fortunate a break. Unfortunately, many people have taken the stance that people intentionally became unemployed so they could receive unemployment checks plus the additional $600 a week under the CARES act and the $300 a week under the American Rescue Plan.

While some people might choose to remain unemployed, an individual can’t just voluntarily go on unemployment. There are rules to follow in order to receive benefits.

In Indiana we are seeing employment rebound to near pre-pandemic levels. We’re not there, but we’re getting there. In reports released Friday, it was estimated that job growth this year could lead to U.S. unemployment of only 4.3% by the year’s end.

The stimulus checks and supplemental unemployment benefits have been extremely helpful for individuals and the economy, but it does not mean people have become flush with cash. Taxing unemployment at a time when Indiana and America are recovering from a severe economic downturn is not a positive move.

This legislative session has left many observers scratching their heads in wonderment over certain decisions. This is yet another.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. May 9, 2021.

Editorial: Sustained vetoes are best outcome for bad bills

Here we go again.

The ink is barely dry on lawmakers’ recent override of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a bill to rein in his emergency powers. Miffed that decisions during the height of the pandemic were made based on science and the advice of public health experts rather than the input of elected officials, legislators are poised Monday to make a similar mistake.

The General Assembly will return to the Statehouse, and House and Senate leaders say they’ll take up Holcomb’s veto of Senate Bill 5 – legislation that would require local public health orders tougher than those issued by the governor to go before county commissioners or city councils for approval. Holcomb vetoed the bill last week, saying he didn’t want to impede local health officials’ flexibility as Indiana continues to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Lawmakers could reverse the governor’s decision with a simple majority vote in both chambers; Republicans who supported the bill hold a supermajority in the House and Senate.

The experts are experts for a reason, and doctors including Allen County Health Commissioner Matthew Sutter say they weigh science, economic impact and personal freedoms when considering orders such as limiting capacity at businesses and other measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are grateful for Governor Holcomb’s decision to prioritize the health and safety of all Hoosiers by vetoing this legislation,” Sutter said in an email to The Journal Gazette. “We hope our legislators will take the opportunity through this veto to step back and collaborate with local experts involved in these matters to ensure the critically important work being done through public health in our local communities and throughout the state is addressed appropriately for the good of all Indiana residents.”

Allowing elected leaders likely without education and training on public health emergencies to second-guess professionals with the skills necessary to combat those problems is dangerous.

Legislators should let the veto stand.

In April, lawmakers upset they weren’t able to debate pandemic executive orders overrode Holcomb’s veto of a bill that allows the General Assembly to call itself into session during such emergencies. The governor argues that is unconstitutional, and the issue is now part of a lawsuit in Marion County.

Senate Bill 5 isn’t the only veto that could be taken up Monday.

The second bill, Senate Bill 303, is one supported by the oil industry and opposed by Indiana farmers. It would require gas stations to place a warning label on every pump that dispenses E15 fuel, made up of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. Holcomb rightly noted the requirement was duplicative because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already mandates the labels.

That information was enough for one of the bill’s authors, Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago. He said he supports Holcomb’s veto if the governor believes there is sufficient notification.

But Sen. Andy Zay, a Huntington Republican and another co-author, told the Indianapolis Star the veto was unfortunate because the issue could have been addressed with a “simple amendment.”

His complaint over the governor’s “lack of engagement” on the bill seems like a poor reason to override the veto.

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Munster Times. May 9, 2021.

Editorial: Pierogi Fest’s return may be sign of things to come

To say the past 14 months have been rough would be a severe understatement.

The millions who have battled COVID-19 and the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives is devastating beyond measure.

Since March 2020, masks, social distancing and working from home have become the norm. While these measures have been necessary to try and stem the spread of COVID-19, they’ve also robbed us of some of our humanity.

Many have avoided gatherings, going out to dinner with friends and visiting family. People haven’t been able to visit loved ones in the hospital. Instead of laughing and playing with their classmates, children have been plopped in front of laptops in makeshift home classrooms.

We weren’t meant to go this long without human connection.

But there does seem to be light at the end of this grim tunnel.

Roughly 1/3 of the country is fully vaccinated. Cases in the U.S. are slowly, if not stubbornly, going down.

Filling the fun gap

And in The Region, we got some good news last week.

After a year off due to the pandemic, Pierogi Fest in Whiting is back.

This doesn’t mean life as we know it is back to normal. It does give us a little reason for hope and optimism. And a chance to have fun and be silly. And after the last 14 months, some fun and silliness is warranted.

As Times staff writer Joseph Pete wrote last week, “Mr. Pierogi, Miss Paczki, the wise-cracking buscias and the whole eccentric cast of characters are returning to 119th Street in July.”

The fest is set for July 23-25.

Just across the state line it seems Chicago is ready for the world once again.

Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she hopes the city is “fully open” by July 4. This could portend the return of things like Lollapalooza or Taste of Chicago.

We at The Times are looking to work our way back into some return to normality as well.

For most of the past year, our Sunday Forum section has remained intact, but our daily opinion pages – which previously ran Tuesday through Friday – were largely put on hold to open up more space for the very important daily accounts of news related to the pandemic.

We are pleased to announce that our regular editorials and daily opinion pages will be returning. Stay tuned for new ways in which we plan to engage you, the reader, and many other diverse voices from our Region community.

None of this will end the pandemic. But with each bit of good news and with every attempt to better listen to and engage with each other, we can build hope.

And hope is exactly what all of us continue to need.

END