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Indiana Statehouse

Source: PHOTO: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

STATEHOUSE — State lawmakers are taking a short break as the legislative session hit the halfway point this week at the Indiana Statehouse.

The leaders of both chambers were laudative of the efforts of lawmakers as they will now switch gears to consider bills sent to them from their counterparts. Dominating the conversation among both the Indiana House and State Senate include matters like the FSSA shortfall and a possible “Thirteenth Check” for Hoosier retirees.

As far as the FSSA shortfall is concerned, Senate Republicans appear to be at a standstill on how to address it for now since it is not a budget year. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch called for lawmakers to approve an audit of FSSA over the shortfall.

“I don’t quite understand the purpose of an audit,” said State Senate Pro Tem Rod Bray. “Keep in mind, the $984 million is not 984 million lost dollars. It’s a forecasting error that they indicated we are going to endure over the next two or three years.”

Part of enduring it likely means making spending cuts for FSSA. However, some have called on lawmakers to approve using some of the $5 billion in reserves the state has on hand to make up for the shortfall.

Bray is skeptical of that thinking because even though using reserves would make up for that shortfall, it would only address the problem temporarily since he says the problem has to do with the state’s forecasting of incoming tax dollars. He said that is what lawmakers need to be focused on.

Then there is the issue of a “Thirteenth Check” which is the affectionate name for a bill to increase what retirees in Indiana are getting in retirement benefits from the state. Supporters of it say it is needed since the amount of benefits retirees are receiving has not changed with the increase in the cost of living.

The bill passed unanimously in the Indiana House to address this would authorize an additional retirement benefits payment this year to make up for that in the short term. State Senators have been mulling a long-term fix to the issue, but have not been able to pass anything substantial.

“We have not really begun to talk about the House Bill 1004 and whether we are going to do a thirteenth check this year,” Bray said. “We will certainly have the conversation next week.”

Lawmakers are expected to resume deliberation on Monday. The House will begin looking at bills passed in the State Senate and vice versa State Senate.