Congress Can Do It, But You Can’t

An interesting blurb in a recent Kiplinger newsletter on one of the privileges of congressional service:

Congress can do what employers can’t when it comes to health coverage: use tax-advanced funds to reimburse workers who buy individual health care policies on exchanges. Employers face a tax penalty of $100 a day per worker for violations.

Yet the government gives lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers tax free contributions to help offset insurance premiums, covering about 72% of exchange-bought insurance. The government allowed the payments because of concerns about higher premiums and the loss of the government subsidy for insurance for both lawmakers and staff.

The IRS restated its view that such subsidies aren’t permitted in the private sector after some vendors told employers that the pretax payments would allow them to meet the mandate to provide insurance. The double standards isn’t likely to change.

Managing Millennials

Born in 1993, I’m pretty certain I’m considered a member of the sometimes disreputable and misunderstood Millennial generation. As more Millennials are entering the workforce, some of their workplace habits have been under scrutiny, as coworkers and managers consider Millennials to be different from previous generations. I was surprised to run into an article combating some of these notions, or at least questioning them.

The Harvard Business Review article centered on four common blanket statements made about Millennials:

  1. They’re completely different from “us” at that age.
  2. Millennials want more purpose at work.
  3. They want more work-life balance.
  4. Millennials need special treatment at work.

The basis for the article’s conclusions came mainly from research done by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “Generation Me,” and her fellow researchers. Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School, also offered his insight based on his studies of research done on Millennials.

All of the abovementioned statements were proven false aside from number three, which was found to be “somewhat true.” The basic conclusion was that Millennials are not drastically different from previous generations and the perceptions that they are derive from the age difference. In other words, Millennials are not that different from Baby Boomers when they were in their 20s and 30s.

However, when managing people, it is still helpful to recognize the differences that age can present, because people’s needs change as they progress through different stages of their life. What’s important to you when you’re 24 is not the same as when you’re 50.

The generational gap does not have to pose issues at work. In fact, Cappelli found in his research that teams composed of different-aged workers perform better, particularly because they don’t view each other as competition and instead collaborate to help each other.

Billionaire Beginnings

Ralph Lauren is worth $7.7 billion. Oprah Winfrey’s empire has skyrocketed to $2.9 billion. They are among the mega-rich and regarded as celebrity royalty.

Their achievements are all the more inspiring when you consider how far they’ve come. Like others featured in a recent Business Insider post – “15 Billionaires Who Were Once Dirt Poor” – both overcame poverty.

Are you familiar with Howard Schultz? I wasn’t. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered that he runs Starbucks (I’m all too acquainted with the company’s lattes). In the piece, he recounts childhood memories residing in a complex for the poor:

Growing up I always felt like I was living on the other side of the tracks. I knew the people on the other side had more resources, more money, happier families. And for some reason, I don’t know why or how, I wanted to climb over that fence and achieve something beyond what people were saying was possible. I may have a suit and tie on now but I know where I’m from and I know what it’s like.

Today, he’s amassed $2 billion. Let me digest that.

Leonardo Del Vecchio’s story is one of the most poignant. As a child, he and four siblings were sent to live in an orphanage after their father died. While working in a factory, Del Vecchio lost part of his finger in an accident. In 1961, he founded Luxottica, the largest producer and retailer of sunglasses and prescription glasses in the world (think Ray-Bans). He’s now worth $15.3 billion.

Fortune may have smiled on these business legends, but their tremendous talent and determination paved the way.

ExactTarget Partnering With Mentoring Women’s Network to Pass the Torch for Women

ExactTarget employees are making the pledge to Pass the Torch for Women.

Mentoring Women’s Network is holding its Pass the Torch for Women event and luncheon on August 14 at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. You can sign up online, and be sure to use the discount code INCHAMBER to receive $50 off the all-day ticket.

It’s Your Chance to be All-IN

The Indiana Humanities Council has a mission of encouraging Hoosiers to think, read and talk in order to connect people, open minds and enrich lives. It has been a partner of the Indiana Chamber in past programs and initiatives.

The Council has a question for Hoosiers: Are you ALL-IN? Find out by engaging in a series of challenges that will help you learn more about your state. It’s an important way of adding “doing” to the think, read and talk mission.

Companies and other organizations are already signing up for friendly competitions or to simply engage their employees.

Learn more and be ALL-IN.

Following the Rules in Hiring Veterans

The Indiana Chamber’s monthly Policy Issue Conference Call in May focused on guidance in matching military veterans with available job openings. The American Jobs for America’s Heroes campaign, which is leading the way in that effort, has a publication for federal contractors to ensure they are meeting new guidelines.

American Jobs for America’s Heroes (AJAH) has published a free “business English” summary guide to the new OFCCP VEVRAA regulations requiring that 7.2% of new federal contractor hires are “protected veterans.” (This percentage will be updated annually by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs).

If a company has at least one federal contract with a value of $100,000 or more, then the company is subject to new regulations issued under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Rehabilitation Assistance Act (VEVRAA) that went into effect on March 24, 2014.
This free AJAH Guide distills 60 pages of confusing regulations into an easy-to-follow guide for meeting VEVRAA requirements.

You can download it here:

“Businesses that capitalize on the employment of veterans are investing in long-term stability and proven reputations. They are investing in a network of extraordinary individuals with the training, experience and values every business is searching for. Let’s invest in the future of our nation by connecting business with veterans,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who authored the Foreword for the Guide. “The American Jobs for America’s Heroes campaign is an effective resource to help businesses accomplish this goal.”

The AJAH campaign enables employers to post jobs at no cost that are provided directly to military employment counselors in the National Guard and other military branches. These counselors are working one-on-one with military candidates to match them with postings. All services are free. You can register to participate in five minutes and access many free educational videos, booklets and webinar replays.

Questions? Contact: Steve Nowlan, Center for America, at 201-513-0379.

Life is Like a Team Sport

I admittedly have little knowledge about the game of soccer. I participated in a league for elementary students for a few years, but my experience mainly consisted of talking to teammates on the sidelines and partaking of the snacks before going home. I’m not even sure my foot ever made contact with the ball during a match.

In light of the recent World Cup matches, I came across an article posing the question: Is life more like baseball or soccer? The conclusion was that life mimics the team-oriented sport of soccer rather than the more-individualistic baseball. And while baseball is another sport that evades my complete comprehension, I found the argument compelling.

At Hanover College, where I’ll be a senior in the fall, we’re assigned to at least one group project in each of our business classes. During the first business class I took in college (and many of the subsequent ones I’ve completed), I received a speech on the team-oriented nature of business. Those of us who preferred individual work would have to adjust, because the success of an organization hinges on the collaboration of the individuals working within it.

The article is interesting because it asserts that even decisions we would consider purely personal—such as what career path to take, whom to socialize with and what values to hold—are actually influenced by the people around us, which makes sense. Our norms are determined by those we’re surrounded by.

Now, considering my lack of sports’ knowledge, I can’t truly comment on the soccer versus baseball argument, nor on Brazil’s loss to Germany (which seems to have inspired the article), but I appreciated the perspective on the team aspect of life and how influential our networks are. I think it’s something important to keep in mind, whether at work, school or simply with friends. Who we surround ourselves with and who we work with can play a major role in our lives.

Comment Period Open for EPA’s Latest Carbon Regulation

Potentially devastating to our state. That’s how we view a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation to strictly limit carbon emissions from the nation’s existing coal-fired power plants. This latest proposal comes on the heels of a plan to put in place greater pollution controls for any new power plants.

The President has left no doubt that he is mounting an all-out war against coal. Congress refused to bite on a climate change bill, so he’s spending his second term trying to legislate via the EPA. Smart, necessary regulations make sense, but that’s the opposite of what we have here; it’s entirely unreasonable given our nation’s energy needs.

These EPA regulations also will barely even move the needle toward reducing carbon emissions (not even by 2% according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy), but they will deal a tangible blow to the national and state economies.

The Institute for 21st Century Energy predicts the regulations will result in a whopping $51 billion in annual economic losses through 2030. On top of that, some 224,000 Americans will lose their jobs and consumers will pay $289 billion more for electricity. Separately, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated the electricity cost increase could be as much as 80%.

Most Hoosier businesses and families can’t afford to pay that, and they certainly can’t afford a slumping economy and job market.

The reality is that Indiana will be hit far harder than most states because it’s the number one per capita manufacturing state in the nation. Over 80% of Indiana’s electric power comes from coal, compared to only 45% for the country. Despite diversification efforts, coal remains Indiana’s primary energy source.

For decades, companies that have located in Indiana have often cited a reliable and affordable supply of electricity among the determining factors, according to site selectors and information gathered by state government. Losing that competitive advantage entirely is now a real possibility with coal coming under attack by the Obama administration.

We encourage you to let the EPA know your thoughts on this latest regulation by visiting www.indianachamber.com/EPA. Also, let your members of Congress know; they need to take action before irreparable damage is done to our economy.

Chamber Comments on State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar on the release of the report from the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure:

“The recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure are an important first step. The group has identified priority projects and clearly defined the funding challenges. Equally important will be the work called for in HEA 1104 (2014), legislation outlining an Indiana Department of Transportation study of financing alternatives that will help meet future funding needs.

“In addition, it’s time for Washington to get its act together and assure that federal funding shortfalls are addressed. Some states are already cutting back on important projects in fear of Highway Trust Fund deficiencies as soon as August 1. What is truly needed – instead of short-term, crisis-avoiding extensions – is a multi-year renewal of the federal transportation plan.

“Superior infrastructure is one of the four drivers of the Indiana Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 and strong transportation via road, rail, air and water is critical to our state’s economic future.”

Gov. Pence Convenes Tax Conference

The Pence administration is looking for big and little ideas regarding taxes. The Governor – through the Department of Revenue and Office of Management and Budget – recently conducted an all-day discussion on ways to simplify Indiana’s tax code and tax administration as a means for making Indiana even more competitive in its quest to attract more business activity to the state.

The day began with comments from Indiana’s own Al Hubbard, former director of the National Economic Council and a longtime Indiana Chamber board member. His insights were followed by a panel of nationally recognized tax experts who discussed – at a high level – tax structure and the impact of taxes and tax reforms. Well-known economist Art Laffer (of the Laffer Curve fame) spoke at lunch.The afternoon consisted of breakout panels of various Indiana tax professionals who addressed different aspects of our tax system. Each session and all the talks were captured on video and most of the panelists also submitted papers or written comments on the topics they discussed (see the Indiana Chamber’s remarks, under the Tax Simplification section at www.in.gov/dor/5122.htm). The video link and other conference materials are available for review at www.in.gov/dor/index.htm. You can also submit your own ideas (up to two weeks post conference) at www.in.gov/dor/5120.htm.

The event was generally intended to generate, collect and consider ideas on how to make Indiana’s system simpler and better. Everything from big picture sweeping changes to down-in-the-weeds process tweaks were put on the table. There were many references to “broadening the base and lowering the rates.” The taxation of business personal property came up in a number of times. And a wide range of suggestions and recommendations on tax policy and procedure in the contexts of sales, income and property tax were brought forth. Indiana Chamber staff and numerous members of the Chamber Tax Policy Committee took part in the panel discussions and otherwise participated.

The question now is how this host of ideas will be digested by the Pence administration and the Legislature. Many members of the tax policy committees in the Legislature participated and were in attendance. And many of the attendees will also be participating in some way with the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Tax Commission that will get under way later this summer. The Governor indicated that he hopes the commission and ultimately the General Assembly will give consideration to some of the things discussed at the conference. It seems likely that the conference will create momentum for some proposals. Many appear very doable and could be realized in the near term, others may take a much longer course or never pan out. Of course, only time will tell which ones fall into which category.