Legislative Testimony: Annual Mega Department of Revenue Bill

The Indiana Chamber’s Bill Waltz testified today on Senate Bill 438 – State and Local Tax Issuesauthored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek). The Chamber supports various provisions and the general intent of this Department of Revenue bill, but also opposes other aspects at this time.

The Chamber generally supports the effort in this bill to clarify a number issues and ease administrative burdens for both the Department of Revenue and taxpayers. However, there are several new provisions that still need work in order to be confident that the language will fulfill the apparent intentions.

The Chamber has serious reservations regarding attorney-client and deliberative process privilege provisions as written. Additionally, the Chamber opposes changing the Tax Court’s standard of review of the state Department of Revenue decisions.

This is a very complicated bill and our position will be adjusted as amendments are made; our support and opposition will match the degree that our concerns are addressed.

Legislative Testimony: Tax Credit for Classroom Supplies

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1005 Tax Credit for Teachers’ Classroom Supplies, authored by Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn).

This bill would allow teachers who often dip into their own pockets to provide classroom supplies for their students to receive a tax credit of up to $200 per year.

This is especially helpful for new, young educators that are just starting their careers and will assist all educators as they support Indiana students.

Legislative Testimony: Supporting Energy Efficiency

The Indiana Chamber’s Vince Griffin testified today in support of Senate Bill 412 – Demand Side Management, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).

The Indiana Chamber supports a diverse energy supply. Energy efficiency is an essential element in that diverse portfolio. It is in the best interest of both the industry and utility to promote energy efficiency.

The industry benefits by lowering its utility bill and the power provider benefits by not building additional and very expensive generating facilities.

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

BizVoice: Social Media Changes Landscape of Hoosier Politics

Longtime WTHR-TV political reporter Kevin Rader says he picks up “ripples” on Twitter or Facebook about posts that are gaining steam, getting retweets and likes, that make him take notice to a certain policy or official’s statement. “It’s almost like an immediate Nielsen Report that comes to your desk every day that you can look at and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting … or this is interesting,’ ” he notes.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, believes social media is “big” for candidates and officeholders – and not just in a reactionary sense. “You have to think about how people are receiving news. It’s not just one way (traditional media) or the other (social media). You’ve got to have the proactivity to get out there and make sure it’s communicated every single way and exhaust every possible resource.”

His counterpart for the Republican Party, Tim Berry, says “The advantage of social media is that you can talk directly to your constituents. You’re not taking through Kevin or the Indianapolis Star. You’re talking directly to your constituents and then that is shared – your perspective is shared. And that’s what people sometimes miss through the use of social media – the opportunity to talk directly to your intended target.”

But there does need to be caution with social media usage, according to Andrew Downs, IPFW political science professor and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“It has got to be part of an overall strategy. You can’t ignore it; you’ve got to be present. But if you let it dominate, which it’s easy to do, you will lose. It doesn’t play that big of a role yet,” he asserts.

Rader offers another example of how Twitter, for example, has changed his job.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by people who have now realized, ‘Look, I don’t have to make a statement to the media. All I have to do is Tweet a little something out and I don’t have to answer a question.’ You find yourself thinking, ‘Oh boy, so are we really serving the people sitting at home?’ You don’t get any follow-up, anything in-depth and it’s become acceptable now.”

But what can the media do? It has little choice but to cover it. And as Downs quips, “Yes, you don’t have to answer questions. That’s the beauty of social media (for candidates).”

Read much more from this group in the September-October edition of BizVoice magazine, where they discuss the climate in the state and what to look for on Election Day. A related article in the same issue focuses on the use of “digital first” technology to reach voters.

Eight Hoosier Organizations Earn Prestigious Governor’s Safety Awards

Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann and Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Sean M. Keefer presented Governor's Workplace Safety Awards today to eight Hoosier companies for advancing occupational safety and health in their industries.

"Dedication to a safe work environment should be an absolute goal of every Indiana employer," said Lt. Gov. Ellspermann. "I commend our award winners for successfully implementing significant health and safety practices."

The companies were honored at the 2013 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo luncheon ceremony in Indianapolis. The event was presented by the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

"The Indiana Department of Labor is proud to recognize these organizations where the safety and health of their workforce is a top priority," said Keefer. "These organizations represent the best of the best, and Indiana is proud to honor these leading companies and their employees."

Indiana organizations were recognized in the following categories: external education and outreach, innovations, internal education and outreach, and partnerships.

The 2013 Governor's Workplace Safety Award recipients are:

  • Aisin Drivetrain, Inc., in Crothersville — internal education and outreach for a medium-sized company
  • Marmon Retail Home Improvement Products, Inc., (formally known as Cerro Wire, LLC) in Crothersville — external education and outreach
  • Cummins Seymour Engine Plant — innovations for a large-sized company
  • DePuy Synthes Joint Reconstruction in Warsaw — internal education and outreach for a large-sized company
  • Gribbins Insulation Co., Inc., in Evansville — innovations in construction
  • Lebanon Community School Corporation — partnerships for construction safety
  • Lord Corporation in Indianapolis — internal education and outreach for a small-sized company
  • PAOLI Furniture — innovations for a medium-sized company

"Safety in the workplace cannot be overrated," said Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. "When a company ensures that safety is a top priority and implements an occupational safety plan, employees, customers and the community win.

"A major benefit of a safe workplace is an efficient, profitable organization with employees who feel they are valued," added Brinegar.

The 2013 Governor's Workplace Safety Awards are a result of a partnership among government, business and safety leaders: the Indiana Department of Labor, on behalf of the governor, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Central Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Governor Mike Pence plans to further honor award recipients at their worksites in the near future.

To learn more about the Governor's Safety Awards program, visit www.in.gov/dol/2381.htm. For more information about the 2013 Indiana Safety and Health Conference and Expo, visit www.insafetyconf.com.

New Cornerstone Partners Program Recognizes Chamber Members

Who doesn't like a little extra recognition? Indiana Chamber of Commerce members now have the opportunity for a LOT more of it through the new Cornerstone Partners program.

Cornerstone Partners will enable member companies – those investing at the $10,000 level and up – to take their visibility to new heights. The Chamber works directly with nearly 5,000 member companies, which represent more than 800,000 Hoosier workers. As the fourth largest state Chamber in the country, its impact is broad and significant.

"The Cornerstone Partners program is a way to recognize these member companies and their commitment to the work of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce," shares Tim Brewer, vice president of membership. "Through the Chamber's brand strength and awareness, we have strong relationships with thousands of companies and numerous other stakeholders. This will help generate good exposure for their organization. It's all about exposure and recognition."

Membership levels include Leadership, Chairman's Circle, Champion and Pinnacle. Some of the benefits (depending on the level) include visibility on the Chamber's web site, as well as on new Cornerstone office and mobile displays; special seating at the annual Legislative Dinner; and recognition in a BizVoice® magazine tribute.

"Before this program launched, we had member representatives who were interested in growing the statewide visibility of their companies. We think this is a great way to do that," Brewer adds.

While the Cornerstone Partners program highlights leading investors, it does not change the Chamber's commitment to small businesses or its advocacy role on their behalf. It simply offers new resources for exposure and brand recognition.

"For our small businesses, our focus continues to be on businesses of all shapes and sizes and industries. We have a number of tools already designed for small businesses, including our free HR helpline, the Business Research Center, exposure on our web site through member press releases and member spotlights," Brewer affirms.

Learn more online or contact Brewer via email or at (317) 264-7539.

Chamber Statement on the Fiscal Cliff Deal

President Obama and a divided Congress have come to an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts:

"The Indiana Chamber applauds the President and Congress for their ability to compromise in the eleventh hour. However, the measures agreed to are inadequate, some potentially counter-productive, and fall far short of addressing the long-term fiscal challenges facing our federal government.

"Despite tax increases, long-term spending remains unsustainable and a threat to our economic and national security. We must rigorously reform entitlement and social welfare programs and look for real, lasting savings across all federal activities. We can no longer borrow and spend as if there were no consequences, because the day of reckoning fast approaches. We look forward to working with our congressional delegation in the weeks and months ahead to fashion workable and responsible reforms."

In early December, the Indiana Chamber released the results of a federal tax survey, done in in partnership with Congressman Todd Young (R-9th District), who is a new appointee to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. The survey of Hoosier businesses revealed a willingness to share the tax burden, provided there is real and significant reduction in federal spending and substantive reform to simplify the tax code. The press release and charts detailing the results can be found online at www.indianachamber.com/federal.
 

Chamber and Rep. Young Release Business Tax Survey Results

As President Obama calls for a “balanced approach” and shared burden to end the current federal fiscal crisis, the Indiana business community is showing willingness to make such a sacrifice, provided there is real reduction in federal spending and substantive reform to simplify the tax code. That’s the overriding message from a recent survey conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Congressman Todd Young (R-9th District), who is a new appointee to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

The electronic survey of Indiana Chamber members and the business community at-large focused on the fiscal cliff, federal tax code, tax reductions, corporate tax system and the U.S. tax structure in general. A total of 188 respondents took part, representing both larger companies (27%) and small businesses (73%).

“Raising tax rates isn’t the right way to go to raise revenue. It may be good politics, but it is lousy economics. Reforming and simplifying the tax code, which will stimulate job creation and economic growth, is the preferred and needed path for Indiana businesses and their employees,” explains Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

“We also need to reject Washington’s usual accounting gimmicks and cut actual spending, not just cut the rate of spending growth. We must reform federal entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – to address fiscal and demographic realities.”

Survey respondents clearly determined the fiscal crisis was more a spending problem (67%) than a revenue one (less than 1%). Additionally, 33% felt both spending and revenue were the culprits.

When asked to rate the most important principles which should guide tax reform, the top four answers respondents selected were: 1) emphasize shared sacrifice; 2) emphasize global competitiveness; 3) refrain from picking winners and losers; and 4) simplify the tax code.

Many businesses and individuals find the complexity of the tax code too much of a burden, resulting in 60% of individual taxpayers and 71% of unincorporated businesses hiring out their tax compliance. In the survey, nearly 30% said tax code simplification was even more important than rate reduction; 62% labeled simplification important, but not as important as rate reduction. To that end, some 71% of businesses surveyed indicated a willingness to give up some of their favorable tax credits and/or deductions for lower individual and corporate tax rates.

Brinegar and Young both acknowledge that, despite what needs to happen, a short-term measure – extension of credits, etc. for six months, for example – to buy more time for substantive and comprehensive reform is likely the most positive outcome that can be expected this month. 

In addition to the survey of businesses, Young’s office also electronically surveyed constituents in his district with similar questions. The results from the more than 2,700 individual respondents largely echoed the findings on the business survey.

“It’s clear to me there is a real appetite right now for comprehensive tax reform,” said Young.  “As negotiations continue on the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’, tax reform paired with spending cuts isn’t just my desired approach, it’s also the approach favored by individual Hoosiers and Indiana businesses. As a new member of the Ways and Means Committee, I look forward to representing those wishes as we move forward on this front.”

A plurality of individuals said the fiscal crisis was more of a spending problem (46%) than a revenue problem (11%), while 40% said both are to blame. 

Additionally, 54% (compared to 26% opposed) of individuals support a model of tax reform similar to the House Republican proposal of eliminating deductions in order to simplify the tax code. But regardless of what approach is taken, 85.5% of individuals said they support extending most or all of the current tax rates while Congress works through the issue.

Congressman Young is using the information gathered in the survey and via constituent research to help inform his approach to these fiscal issues. Likewise, the Indiana Chamber’s lobbying efforts on federal tax reform are relying heavily on the survey findings.

Charts detailing the results of the tax surveys of business owners and Congressman Young’s individual constituents can be found online at www.indianachamber.com/federal.