Oregon Businesses, Come on Down (and East)!

Oregon voters and the legislature were recently faced with some difficult budget decisions. Their solution was apparently to raise over $720 million by jacking up taxes, largely on businesses. It’s one way of doing things, but it’s probably not helping their businesses recover from the recession. So, if some of those fine Oregon companies wish to join us here in business-friendly Indiana, that’s certainly o.k. Granted, we don’t have mountains and ocean access, but corn is a beautiful vegetable and you haven’t lived until you’ve been to a Covered Bridge Festival in the fall. Also, bring your sneaks because you’re going to learn a lot about free throws.

Stateline writes:

For the first time since 1930, Oregon voters approved a general tax increase on Tuesday (Jan. 26), signing off on a plan to raise $727 million by targeting corporations and the wealthy.

By approving two ballot initiatives — known as Measures 66 and 67 — Oregonians showed that they prefer to tax relatively well-off segments of the population instead of making deep budget cuts to education and other state services.

Measure 66 raises income taxes on individuals who earn more than $125,000 a year and households that earn more than $250,000. Measure 67 replaces Oregon’s 79-year-old, $10-minimum corporate income tax with a new sliding scale that could sharply increase taxes for many businesses. Both plans were passed by the majority Democratic Oregon Legislature last year, but were placed on the ballot by opponents who gathered enough signatures to force a public vote.

As Stateline.org reported Tuesday, the election has national implications. Beyond being a referendum on a key part of Oregon Democrats’ policy agenda, the Beaver State is the first in the nation to vote on an emerging trend of state lawmakers targeting the wealthy for tax hikes. A record eight states, including Oregon, raised personal income taxes on their top earners last year, a practice Republicans have decried as “class warfare.”

Beyond being a showdown between Democrats and Republicans, the election turned into a proxy fight between labor unions that backed the measures and many businesses trying to reject them. The Associated Press reported that Tuesday’s special election was one of the most expensive issue campaigns in Oregon history, noting that the $727 million at stake represents about 5.5 percent of the state’s two-year, general-fund budget.

Trust in U.S. Businesses on the Rise

This time last year, collective faith in American businesses was down, both domestically and abroad. Then again, at this time last year Brett Favre seemed to be settling into retirement and Conan O’Brien was eagerly awaiting fulfilling his dream of taking over "The Tonight Show." Quite a bit can change in a year.

And it looks as though trust in American businesses is rebounding, according to PR Newswire:

Trust in business and government in the United States has improved significantly, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer. Among informed publics(1), trust in U.S. business to do what is right jumped 18 points since last year to 54 percent. Trust in U.S. companies is trending up in 19 of the 20 countries surveyed, with the largest increases – 20 percentage points or more – recorded in Europe, reversing years of low trust in U.S. companies across the EU and Russia. In the U.S., trust in government also rose 16 points since last year, to 46 percent, one of the largest increases in trust in government among the countries surveyed. These levels of trust are approaching those measured by Edelman before the "great recession," at the height of the economic expansion in 2006 and 2007. However, nearly two-thirds (59 percent) of U.S. respondents express concern that business and financial institutions will return to "business as usual" after the recession is over… 

For the first time, this year’s survey shows that trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. In the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality – and far outrank financial returns, which sits at or near the bottom of 10 criteria in all regions. This is in stark contrast to 2006, when financial performance was in third place in a list of 10 attributes shaping trust in the United States. An increasing number of respondents also expressed trust in information from a company’s CEO – up 12 points, from 19 percent to 31 percent, which is still relatively low.

People Read Newspapers Online, But Won’t Pay for Privilege

Challenges abound in the newspaper industry as it struggles to reconstruct a profitable model. While many anticipated just having subscribers pay for access to online content, it seems the potential subscribers have other ideas.

As someone who’s worked in community journalism, I understand both sides. I’d say people need a viable, authentic source for unbiased news, although there’s nothing to say a thorough, non-ideological blog couldn’t provide the same service with a staff. But, how would he/she get paid? The answers are out there, we just need to keep searching. In the meantime, here are some interesting poll results from CNET:

Would you pay to read your favorite newspaper online? Most say no, at least according to a new Harris poll.

With traditional print newspapers struggling to turn a profit, many have turned to the Web as a means to stay afloat. While some offer their online content free of charge, other papers have played around with subscriptions by charging readers a monthly fee. But that strategy may backfire, says a Harris poll released Wednesday.

Among more than 2,000 online adults surveyed, 77 percent said they wouldn’t pay anything to read a newspaper’s stories on the Web. And among those willing to pay, 19 percent would cough up between $1 and $10 a month; only 5 percent would shell out more than $10 each month.

The poll also revealed what many newspapers have already experienced–that readership of traditional news is steadily dropping. Just 43 percent of the people surveyed said they read a newspaper each day, either in print or online. Around 72 percent read a paper once a week, while 81 percent read only once a month. And 10 percent said they never read a newspaper.

One factor in the decline of the daily newspaper is age. The younger you are, the less interested you seem to be in reading the daily news. Among folks 55 and older, 64 percent still read a daily paper. Among those 45 to 54, 44 percent catch a daily paper, while 36 percent of adults 35 to 44 do. But of those 18 to 24, only 23 percent said they read a paper each day, while 17 percent said they never do.

NOTE: It was also recently discovered that Newsday’s foray into charging for online subscriptions fell flat, garnering just 35 customers in three months.

New Contract with America from GOP?

According to a recently e-mailed article from Congressional Quarterly, GOP leadership is currently pondering a resurrection of the 1994 Contract With America. It appears as though Republicans are looking to define themselves as the 2010 election approaches, and they’re hoping for a mid-term coup following Democratic successes in recent years. Spearheaded by Newt Gingrich & Co., the 1994 version offered specific ideas on how a Republican Congress would govern by lowering taxes, reducing government, promoting entrepreneurship and implementing tort and welfare reforms. CQ writes:

Minority Leader Boehner told the Republican Conference this morning that the idea would be patterned after the original 1994 Contract with America that is widely credited with helping the GOP win majority status for the first time in 40 years.

According to officials who heard this morning’s presentation, Boehner conceded to rank-and-file Republicans during the closed-door meeting that there is a need to define "what we’re for," in addition to opposing President Obama’s agenda.

Boehner pointed to several Republican alternatives to healthcare reform legislation being devised by congressional Democrats as a good example of what could go into such a document. According to an aide, Boehner said:

"The bottom line is, I believe we can beat this bill. The American people are with us."

Whether this document ends up actually being called a "contract" or an agenda, or something else, Boehner is described as saying that its development and promotion should involve House Republicans who are seeking re-election and candidates recruited to run for other House seats.

Things You May Not Know About the State of the Union

Tonight at 9 p.m., millions of Americans will gather around their television sets to view history in the making. Granted, 50% of the audience will likely stem from the "American Idol" lead-in, but they’ll hopefully stick around to watch President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address. In related news, here are some interesting facts about the history of the speech, courtesy of CQ Politics:

The State of the Union is steeped in ceremony, but the tradition has changed quite a bit over the years.

As Congress prepares to hear President Obama’s first address this Wednesday, here are some facts to lift the curtain on this annual tradition:

  • The president’s annual message has its origins in the Constitution and was modeled after a British tradition.
  • Senators are seated towards the front of the House chamber. Only Congressional leaders and the administration can bring guests.
  • Thomas Jefferson broke with tradition to deliver his address in writing. Subsequent presidents followed suit until Woodrow Wilson delivered his 1913 message in person.
  • Harry S. Truman delivered the first televised speech in 1947. George W. Bush’s 2002 speech was the first to be streamed live online.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson moved the speech from daytime to the evening to increase television viewership. Over the years, presidents have tailored their speeches more towards the American public than simply to Congress.
  • Along with one member of the president’s Cabinet, two Members of the House and Senate skip the event should tragedy hit during the event. The tradition of lawmakers staying back started after the 9/11 attacks.

Making a Mentoring Difference

Mentoring is a simple yet transformative relationship that advances individuals both personally and professionally. The inaugural Inspire: Power of Mentoring Awards will celebrate the efforts of seven individuals and one organization for their use of mentoring to inspire excellence. Each selected Mentor of Excellence will receive an award, media recognition and public recognition at Inspire 2010, which will be held at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, on February 24 at 11:30 a.m. 

Award categories are in the following industry categories:

  • Accounting, Banking & Financial Services
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health & Health Sciences
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Athletics

In addition to the industry mentors, one Community Mentor of Excellence and one Organization of Excellence will be selected.

The selection committee chairs are:

  • Randy Reichmann, Old National Bank
  • Dave Becker, First Internet Bank
  • Rob Hillman, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana
  • David Shane, LDI, Ltd.
  • Jim Jay, TechPoint
  • Tully Bevilaqua, Indiana Fever
  • December Warren, IYI’s Indiana Mentoring Partnership
  • Roland Dorson, Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce

 You can fill out a quick and easy nomination form here (the deadline for nominations is January 31) and visit College Mentors for Kids for sponsorship and ticket information. 

Pence: Support is Humbling, but Will Not Run Against Sen. Bayh

Think Rep. Mike Pence can defeat Sen. Evan Bayh this November in one of the most talked about Senate races in the nation? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because according to Pence, he’s staying put in the House of Representatives. The following is a letter from Pence posted on his Facebook page (and relayed via Inside INdiana Business):

As many of you are aware, I have been approached about running for the United States Senate in 2010. Karen and I have been humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement which we received from across Indiana, especially since there are several capable and qualified candidates already seeking the Republican nomination. After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the House and to seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District in 2010. I am staying for two reasons. First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010. One year ago I was unanimously elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, the third ranking position in House Republican leadership. I accepted that responsibility because I believed that if Republicans returned to their conservative roots, they could win back the confidence of the American people. And I see it happening every day. As a Republican leader, I have the opportunity to shape the policy and strategy that will return a Republican majority to the Congress in 2010. So my duty is here, in the House, serving my constituents and my colleagues as we fight to restore a conservative majority to the Congress of the United States. I am not going to leave my post when the fate of the House hangs in the balance. My place is here, in that fight, with the brave men and women who will be winning that victory for the American people. I also am staying because I believe we will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, and I am excited to be a part of it. While the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate is significant, I believe the best chance this nation has to restore fiscal discipline, common sense and common values to Washington, D.C., is for conservatives to retake the House in 2010. When we win back the House, we will make history and we will have the power to stop the big government plans of this administration and to steer our nation to a more secure, free and prosperous future. Last fall, Karen and I completed our first full marathon. We finished the 26.2 miles in just under seven hours despite the rigors on this 50 year-old body and despite many opportunities to step off the track and call it a day. Our inspiration for the day came from a verse in the Bible that reads, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I believe the race marked out for me in 2010 is in the House of Representatives. I believe that if we run that race with conviction and endurance, we can win back the Congress for the common sense and the common values of the American people, turn this tide of big government back and set the stage for a boundless American future. Thanks to you all who prayed our little family through this difficult decision. I hope that God will someday permit me to perform some wider service to the people of Indiana and the country, but for now my focus must remain on finishing the job I was elected to do by my constituents and my Republican colleagues; representing conservative values in Congress and winning back the House of Representatives.

Freda Lockhart: First Woman Elected to Chamber Board Remembered

Freda Lockhart, who died last week at age 83, achieved a number of firsts during her business career. In addition to the first female-led Cadillac and Saturn automobile dealerships, she was the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Today, 21 women are on the Chamber board. From her obituary:

Freda received numerous honors as an automobile dealer, including Time Magazine Quality dealer Awards twice, in 1978 and in 1990 when she was one of the top 10 dealers out of 22,000. She also led Lockhart Cadillac to 14 consecutive Cadillac Master Dealer Awards and became a member of the Cadillac Master Dealer Hall of Fame in 1991, the only woman to receive that recognition. The accomplishment she was most proud of came in 1992, Lockhart Cadillac was named by General Motors as the #1 CSI Cadillac Dealer in the country. Until her retirement in 1999, she led Lockhart Automotive Group including the brands of Cadillac, Hummer and Saturn to great success.

Active in community affairs, she was the first woman elected to the board of directors of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, American United Life, Hooks Drugs, as well as the first female President of the Indianapolis Auto Trade Association and the Automobile Dealer Association of Indiana. She served on the advisory board of St. Vincent’s Hospital, was a member of Executive Women International, Family Support Center, Junior Achievement , Salvation Army, Better Business Bureau, 500 Festival Board and supported numerous organizations her entire lifetime.

Freda truly lived the American Dream, starting at the bottom and with foresight, long hours and hard work achieved her dreams. She loved her customers, friends, employees, and family and did her best to make everyone’s life happier.

Following the Bouncing Ball in D.C.

The urgency to pass health care reform legislation is officially gone. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she "did not want to hurry a decision" and Sen. Christopher Dodd suggests Democrats "take a month to think about a path forward." This from the same people who imposed deadline after deadline throughout the past year. Credit a clear message from the voters in Massachusetts and rapidly declining poll numbers for the change in course.

The House, in fact, appears unsure where to turn next — at least as far as official business is concerned. The schedule for this week: day off today, legislative business starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, an early end Wednesday in preparation for that night’s State of the Union speech, and no votes on Thursday or Friday. Expect to hear, from the White House and leaders in Congress, more about jobs, jobs and jobs.

But remember. Just about everything talked about, debated and eventually voted upon in 2010 will be done so with an eye toward the November election. To me, that’s a shame but a reality that no one seems willing to confront.

No Time for Games in Education Policies

A vehicle bill in the Indiana General Assembly is one that contains no text, but is available to be amended at a later time. HB 1367 fits in that category this time around, and the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) hopes to drive its suggested school budget cuts through the House Education Committee (via 1367) on Monday.

The ISTA plan: gut the progress made last year (scholarship tax credit and virtual charter school pilot programs), eliminate some testing (really ?), spend rainy day funds and any reserves above 8%, and allow more money to be transferred from capital funds to general operating funds.

The Indiana Chamber, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) and about any other group interested in education policy are prepared to oppose this effort. IDOE previously released a Citizens’ Checklist that prioritizes items that should be considered before any cuts are made that affect classroom instruction and learning. And while the ISTA does not propose the feared mass teacher layoff, putting the clamps on the much-needed scholarship and voucher school initiatives would be detrimental to students and their learning opportunities.

The checklist emphasizes that school districts look at some of the same changes many businesses have been forced to implement during the economic downturn. These include freezing pay (or rolling back previous increases) and closely reviewing health plans (with inclusion in the state program an option that would save money for many). These two items alone could account for much of the projected $300 million cut in education funds.

At the same time that judiciously saving money should be the top priority, a questionable $200 million mandate on school counselors passed the House committee last week. While the Chamber said "no, you have to be kidding," or something a little more professional, it was the only one to speak up and the measure somehow had the support of ISTA and associations representing superintendents, school boards and counselors.

Finally, education leaders and those same groups are also saying that if you want us to teach young people to read (SB 258), we’re going to need more money. Since when is reading NOT included in current education efforts.

Let’s hope a little common sense begins to prevail — starting today.