Federal Infrastructure Proposal Unveiled; What It Means for Indiana

On Monday, the Trump administration released its long anticipated $1.5 trillion plan for public works and infrastructure. The plan is based on $200 billion in direct federal spending to leverage $1.3 trillion in state, local and private infrastructure investment. (See https://www.whitehouse.gov/wpcontent/uploads/2018/02/INFRASTRUCTURE-211.pdf.)

With many of our nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure in need of upgrading and building out for the future, this plan relies heavily on additional investment from the states and the private sector. The base of the plan has $100 billion in incentives in the form of grants to state and locals that includes $50 billion for rural projects, $30 billion for revolving federal credit and capital funds, as well as $20 billion for innovative projects that may not be ripe for private investment.

Indiana was one of several states that passed a bold, long-range infrastructure plan last year. (In fact, more than half of the states have raised their gas tax over the past five years.) So we should be well positioned to take advantage of this plan, as we have already taken the needed step to enhance our state and local road infrastructure funding.

Water infrastructure is a big issue for Indiana and this plan also proposes to leverage local investment with up to $40 in local and private money for every $1 in federal investment.

Additionally, the plan also proposes to cut federal permitting and approval times to two years, down from five to 10 years. This could be a big benefit for many projects.

Presently, this plan does not lay out specific funding for the proposal and puts that issue before Congress to solve. That could prove more difficult with concerns that the recently passed federal tax plan will raise the nation’s deficit. One option: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently proposed raising the federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993. No doubt, this will be a tough discussion in Congress.

There is usually an economic multiplier effect with infrastructure investment. America’s infrastructure is in dire need of modernization. Indiana has taken big steps to take care of its own and will hopefully benefit from this package. As details develop, we will continue to see how this plan evolves and impacts Indiana infrastructure.

Tech Talk: Making Progress at the Statehouse

An Indiana General Assembly analysis at the midway point of the session is always a bit tricky. We can tell you the current status of legislation, but with the caution that more negotiations, compromises and refinements are on the way.

Clarifying the tax status of software as a service (SaaS) is among the high-priority items. Bill Waltz, our tax policy expert, shares this insightful update:

Bill Waltz

As is often the case, the House and the Senate each have their own ideas on how best to address big issues. That is the current circumstance regarding the taxability of software utilized as the means of providing a service. Obtaining greater clarity on this subject is a priority of the Chamber and the Governor.

Senate Bill 257 embodies the efforts of the administration to clarify tax law in this arena. It was largely formulated by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Office of Management and Budget to serve as guidance for what is taxable and what is not. The bill is basically a codification of recent DOR rulings interpreting and applying its own information bulletin, which outlines a complicated set of factors and tests. The legislation is focused on what constitutes a retail transaction (sale) of a tangible good.

Essentially, the position of DOR is to tax the sale of prewritten off-the-shelf type software, including such software even if it is downloaded or accessed over the internet. But if it is customized software or software utilized in connection with what is primarily a service to a customer, it is omitted from the new statute and deemed not taxable.

The determinations in gray areas will remain fact sensitive, but the language is intended to make it clearer that software services are not taxable. The statutory provisions should operate to make people in the SaaS industry more comfortable in concluding that they do not need to collect sales tax, unless they are engaged in a transaction that falls squarely into the retail product sale category as set out in the legislation.

On the other hand, HB 1316 takes a different approach. It uses similar language as is in SB 257 but adds several unique twists to the picture. First, it creates a new lesser rate for prewritten off-the-shelf type of software – with the apparent objective of identifying and monitoring the tax revenues associated with these transactions. It excludes transactions where the software is acquired by a business to perform its core business purpose. This business-to-business exemption component is of course a very positive thing and should be embraced. Finally, it looks to the long term potential of sales involving software as the industry continues to expand, plus creates a trigger reducing the standard sales tax rate for when total collections exceed $250 million (a threshold so high that it is hardly foreseeable in the near future.)

Perhaps it makes the most sense to combine the good pieces of these competing bills to produce the best end result. The Chamber sees much merit in doing all that is possible to clarify the state of the law regarding SaaS as is addressed in the Senate bill. This is needed and would be a positive step. But while unique aspects of the House bill present some real concerns, it also includes the most solid of tax principles – don’t tax business inputs. Exempting business-to-business transactions would prove a terrific encouragement to the SaaS industry to conduct their businesses in Indiana.

In the second half of the session, the Chamber will be leading the charge to resolve the SaaS clarification issue to the fullest extent possible.

A variety of other tech policy priorities are still in play. Here is a brief summary.

Video: Midterm Evaluation of the Indiana General Assembly

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar provides a midterm evaluation of the 2018 Indiana General Assembly. Among the key bills that did not survive the first half of the session: raising the smoking age from 18 to 21 (a common-sense step for dealing with health care costs and lost productivity that causes more than $6 billion in annual impact). In addition, an effort to modernize the state’s local government system by consolidating the smallest townships was not brought for a vote.

Areas that are still a work in progress include reforming the state’s workforce development programs, incorporating computer science requirements into schools, clarifying tax treatment for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and continuing to move forward on long-term water resource management.

Indiana Chamber, Wellness Council Leading the Way for Employers on Battling Opioid Epidemic

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to “cultivate a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.” And as an organization that partners with 25,000 members and investors (representing over four million Hoosiers), we’re well-suited to lead on critical topics to employers and employees in the state.

That’s why the Indiana Chamber and the Wellness Council of Indiana are joining forces with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration in efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, one of the most challenging and devastating issues of our time.

The Indiana Workforce Recovery initiative, announced today to the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse, is being convened to educate and guide employers to:

  • offer health benefits that provide coverage for substance abuse disorders;
  • expand drug testing to include prescription drugs;
  • provide effective employee assistance, wellness and work-life programs that include information and services related to substances abuse prevention, treatment and return to work issues; and
  • train managers to recognize and respond to substance abuse issues.

“The workplace has long been a provider of the resources and support that help Hoosiers enhance their quality of life,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Today, employers can and need to be part of the solution to this epidemic. By bringing together the required resources, our goal is to help deliver the information and training to help them do just that.”

Jennifer Pferrer and Kevin Brinegar announce the initiative.

Specific programs will be unveiled as they are developed. Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana (part of the Indiana Chamber since 2011) will lead the combined effort of the two organizations.

Gov. Holcomb has made attacking the drug epidemic one of the five pillars of his agenda.

“The effects of Indiana’s opioid epidemic are far-reaching and devastating to individual Hoosiers, families, communities and our economy,” Gov. Holcomb said. “It will take all of us working together to slow down and reverse this addiction crisis. I commend the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Wellness Council of Indiana for joining forces to launch this new initiative that will help our state’s employers, who are directly impacted by the opioid epidemic.”

Find the full press release here and a fact sheet on the workforce impacts of the epidemic at www.indianachamber.com/opioids. Follow us on social media for updates and more information about the initiative.

Tech Talk: Planning Ahead for Big Events

There is no shortage of tech-related conferences and events throughout Indiana. To help you plan ahead, here is an update on three important ones upcoming this spring:

Although work is already taking place at the Indiana IoT Lab in Fishers, the official grand opening will be March 21. More than 50 companies are on board at the facility, where innovation and collaboration will meet to advance the connections between Indiana businesses and Internet of Things technology.

The AT&T IoT Civic Hackathon will return April 20-21 at the Indiana IoT Lab and Launch Fishers. The focus of the third annual Hackathon will be improving first responder technology and public safety. Among the many guest speakers: former Boston Police Department commissioner Ed Davis and Indiana congresswoman Susan Brooks.

The Indiana Chamber’s inaugural Cyber Security Conference is set for May 1 at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center. Protecting company information from ever-increasing sophisticated attacks is vital for all organizations. Best practices in cyber security and data privacy will be featured. Registration is open and sponsorship opportunities remain.

Save the Date

IMPACT Awards Celebrate Internship Success

Internship excellence, and the interns, employers and career development professionals that make it possible, were honored today by Indiana INTERNnet during the 12th annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon. Indiana INTERNnet is the statewide resource for internship opportunities managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and has helped connect students and employers across the state since 2001.

Appropriately supporting the luncheon’s theme of “Wild about Workforce Development,” Chris Heeter, founder of The Wild Institute, delivered the keynote address, “Guiding the Team to Success.” She combines business expertise with stories from her sled dog team and experience as a whitewater trip guide.

“Experiential learning is a key piece of Indiana’s workforce development plans, and the nominees we celebrated this year are a promising indication of Indiana’s future,” offers Indiana INTERNnet Executive Director Janet Boston. “Internships are making a difference in our young professionals’ skill levels, and often, these opportunities are leading to full-time jobs either with the intern’s employer or another Hoosier company. Everyone benefits from meaningful internships.”

Winners:

  • College Intern of the Year: Jerica Mitchell (Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Inc.; Indiana State University)
  • High School Intern of the Year: Camisa Vines (South Bend Code School; John Adams High School)
  • Non-Traditional Intern of the Year: Miranda Goodwin (Wabash Valley Community Foundation)
  • Career Development Professional of the Year: Nathan Milner (Indiana Wesleyan University)
  • Employer of the Year (For-profit): Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (Indianapolis)
  • Employer of the Year (Non-profit): Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem (South Bend)

IMPACT Awards

The full press release, with a list of all nominees and additional information about the winners can be found here.

In addition, the second annual School Counseling-Business Partnership of the Year award was presented to Perry Central Jr./Sr. High School and Jasper Engines and Transmissions. The recognition, developed by the Indiana Chamber Foundation to highlight innovative approaches to college and career readiness, comes during National School Counseling Week. The Indiana Chamber Foundation and the Department of Workforce Development jointly presented the award.

The luncheon was sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College and held at the Ivy Tech Community College Culinary and Conference Center in Indianapolis. Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business was the event emcee.

For more information about the Indiana INTERNnet program, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net or call the hotline at 317-264-6852.

Long-Term Federal Study Shows Postsecondary Education Results

The results of a major federal longitudinal study that began in 2009 are in: Postsecondary education pays off in a big way for students.

Inside Higher Ed has the breakdown of the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The study tracks a nationally representative sample of 20,000 students who were in ninth grade in 2009 through February 2016, offering a longitudinal look at how students flow through (and out of) the American education system.

Of the sample, 92 percent had received a high school diploma by February 2016. Additionally, 72 percent of the 2009 ninth graders had enrolled in some form of post-high school education by February 2016. Postsecondary attendance was defined as including enrollment in an undergraduate degree or certificate program, as well as taking classes outside such a program.

The study showed a strong link between privilege and education. Students who went to a private high school were much more likely to go to college. About 80 percent of private school graduates went on to college by 2016, while 48.7 percent of public school students were enrolled in postsecondary education.

The study broke the students’ outcomes down by race, with clear trends (and advantages) emerging. Of the overall sample, 88.2 percent of those who identified as Asian went on to postsecondary education, compared to 75.7 percent of white ninth graders, 68 percent of Hispanic ninth graders and 64.7 percent of black ninth graders.

Nearly one-quarter of the 2009 ninth graders who initially enrolled in a postsecondary degree had dropped out as of February 2016. The reasons varied: nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said they withdrew from university due to a family situation; 40 percent said they left due to financial constraints; 24 percent attributed academia and 22 percent said work stopped their education.

postsecondary credentials

Those Who Had Not Enrolled

Those who had not enrolled at all in postsecondary education offered various reasons for this decision. The most common explanations — about 80 percent — were financial or personal. Nearly one-third of respondents said work prevented them from pursuing a tertiary degree, while 9 percent cited academics as a barrier.

Of the never-enrolled ninth graders, one-quarter were employed full-time, 11 percent had a part-time job, 8 percent were unemployed and another 6 percent were unemployed with no plans to find work.

Nearly one-third of respondents who hadn’t pursued post-high school education said their job was closely or somewhat related to what they expected to do at age 30. Another quarter didn’t think their job resembled their expected role at all.

A significant number of respondents without post-high school education reported experiencing issues to do with finances.

Three-fifths of the respondents worried about having enough money for day-to-day expenses like food, clothing, housing and transportation. This concern traversed race and ethnicity. Among those without college degrees who were employed, 39 percent had an income of $10,000 or less in 2015.

 

Big Winners in the Super Bowl Commercial Game

CommercialsDid you see Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. dancing to the routine from “Dirty Dancing” last night during the Super Bowl’s commercial lineup? Granted, I did not watch the Super Bowl in its entirety, so I missed several of the commercials – but that one might have been my favorite.

I also enjoyed the marketing gusto behind the “It’s a Tide Ad” commercial. Did you have a favorite?

While the actual football game was exciting, the commercials were a mixed bag, with a few bright spots among some duds, per usual.

Forbes has a listing of the top commercial spots, as determined by a new startup that uses opt-in technology to measure actual eyes on the screen and viewer reactions:

TVision’s ranking system uses a score of 100 as a baseline, so numbers higher than 100 represent better than average performance. Here are the top 10 spots that got attention from viewers in the moment when they aired last night during the game. Note how different this list is from the spots that resonated most on social media or in earned media views online.

  1. Bud Light – Bud Knight – 130.8 
  2. E*Trade – This is Getting Old – 123.6
  3. Mountain Dew/Doritos – Doritos Blaze vs Mountain Dew Ice – 116.9
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout –  Mission: Impossible – Fallout – 114.2
  5. Avocados from Mexico – #GuacWorld – 113.7
  6. NFL – Touchdown Celebration – 112.4
  7. M&Ms – Human – 112.1
  8. Tide – It’s a Tide Ad –  111.1
  9. Netflix: The Cloverfield Paradox   – The Cloverfield Paradox – 110.9
  10. Amazon – Alexa Loses Her voice – 110.7

TVision also tracks a metric called the Smile Index, using data the observes the facial expressions of its opt-in panel to identify positive emotional responses. So which ads lit up the room? According to the data, it was…

  1. Bud Light –  120.2 on the Smile Index
  2. Avocados from Mexico –  118.8
  3. M&Ms –  117.8
  4. Netflix – Cloverfield – 117.2
  5. E*Trade – 115.2

Seeking Productivity in 2018

If you’re like me, you probably made a few resolutions for 2018 and you may or may not be sticking to all of them. But now that it’s just February, you’ve had ample time to adapt to some new life habits and still plenty of time to call any such habits “New Year’s” resolutions.

Maybe it was to work on your health (that’s one of mine!), or perhaps it’s to be more present with your family (okay, also me!) or get more sleep to help with all facets of life (me again. Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern…).

If you’ve got “be more productive” on your list for 2018, this post from Forbes offers three smart tips to help you on that path:

  1. Figure out your to-do and not-to-do list and don’t do unnecessary things because it can hamper your productivity and slow you down.
  2. Automate your life – the article mentions a few apps to help you automate everything from your home’s thermostat to adding events to your calendar and more.
  3. And maybe you’re in a position to outsource tasks. Is it time to consider hiring an assistant (even a virtual assistant) to help manage your day-to-day tasks? It could be that hiring the kid down the street to come mow your lawn once a week frees up enough of your time and energy to be more productive.

Whatever you’re doing to improve yourself or your work in 2018, keep it up; because then we’ll all have fewer resolutions to try and keep track of in 2019.

Indiana INTERNnet: My Experience With A Virtual Internship