Minnesota’s New Site Helps Students Make College Pay

minnPeople in powerful positions often have access to the best information.

Minnesota high school students now have the ability to expand their power base. When they are agonizing over technical school and college choices, they can now look at marketplace data that show which academic programs have high placement rates and what recent graduates are being paid.

For the first time in its history, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is making this information available to the public on its website.

The data reveal a pattern of underemployment among recent graduates. For the Class of 2011, among those completing programs ranging from certificates to graduate degrees, by their second year out of school, only 42 percent had full-time jobs that they kept for a whole year.

But the most intriguing statistics are the wage breakouts among academic programs. Here are some of the highlights for the Class of 2011 two years after completing their education:

  • Among students who earned bachelor’s degrees in marketing, 52 percent had full-time jobs and 31 percent were working part-time. The median annual salary for full-time employees was $35,373.
  • Among bachelor’s graduates with general business degrees, the median annual wages for full-time employees were $57,227. In this major, 59 percent were employed full-time and 21 percent were working part-time.
  • Those with special education and teaching degrees at the bachelor’s level had annual median earnings of $35,312.
  • Technical education translated into good-sized paychecks for people who completed certificate programs or associate degrees. For example:
  • Annual median earnings were $44,196 for full-time workers who obtained associate degrees in electromechanical instruments and maintenance technology. In this program area, 60 percent held full-time jobs in their second year out of school.
  • Plumbing program graduates also saw high job placement. Among students who completed certificate programs for plumbing, the annual median earnings for full-time workers were $41,229. Forty-five percent were working full time and 42 percent were employed part time in the second year out of school.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill requiring DEED to take the wage and employment data that the state receives from employers and present it to state residents in a format that’s easy to use. Called the “graduate employment outcomes tool,” people can use drop-down menus on the DEED website to look up wage and placement data by academic program.

Check out the site.

Momentum for Significant Changes to Indiana Taxation

Since 2002, there have been numerous changes to the Indiana tax laws to improve Indiana’s competitiveness, while at the same time implementing cost controls and preserving Indiana’s ability to balance its budget. Notable changes include the elimination of the gross income tax and the supplemental net income tax; the elimination of the inheritance tax; reductions in income tax rates for individuals, corporations and financial institutions; numerous deductions and credits designed to stimulate economic development; and the addition of property tax caps. As a result, various national studies have recognized Indiana’s ability to improve its tax climate while maintaining fiscal discipline. The Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. recently ranked Indiana’s tax climate the eighth best in the country on its State Business Tax Climate Index.

Indiana, however, isn’t resting on its laurels. On June 24, the Governor hosted the Indiana Tax Competitiveness and Simplification Conference, comprised of a mix of national and local economists and tax practitioners. As its name suggests, this one-day conference was intended to identify and discuss ways in which Indiana could make improvements to its tax laws to enhance Indiana’s competitive positioning and to simplify its tax laws and tax procedures. In September, the state issued its 70-page Tax Competitiveness and Simplification Report.

The Legislature had a similar initiative, but one with a different approach. The Legislature created a “blue ribbon” committee to study Indiana’s business tax structure. Members of the committee were designated governmental leaders and representatives of select interest groups and key organizations (including the Chamber). The committee met three times to hear testimony from national and local groups and individuals, and then concluded with a meeting on November 12 to discuss and approve its findings and recommendations.

The scope of the topics discussed has been extensive. The discussions have included some “big ideas,” such as elimination of the personal property tax, the broadening of the sales tax base to include more services, the elimination of the corporate income tax or the reduction of the sales tax rate if the sales tax base is broadened and the idea of turning Indiana into a forced combination, or unitary, state. Big ideas to eliminate taxes in their entirety, or reduce tax rates, and even many of the less ambitious ideas, raise issues of finding replacement revenues to balance the budget and maintain Indiana’s fiscal discipline. Other ideas, such as broadly taxing services or making Indiana a unitary state, may raise revenue to “fund” other changes, but they raise significant policy questions and potentially undermine Indiana’s goal of being more competitive and simplifying its tax laws.

This should not, however, be written off as an academic exercise. There have been numerous ideas in which there appears to be a consensus of opinion for change. Some are areas in which there is very little or no discernible fiscal cost. Those areas include ways in which tax procedures can be improved and streamlined. There are other areas in which there is a conceptual consensus for change, but the improvements would have revenue implications of varying degrees. An example is simplifying Indiana income tax by reducing the number of “decoupling” adjustments from federal taxable income. For the most part, there is a revenue cost to each decoupling adjustment.

The state’s report indicates that it envisions a “package” which will be revenue neutral. It includes a discussion of over 50 ideas, which does not include all of the ideas discussed at the conference or in the white papers prepared by conference speakers in advance of the conference. Some of the topics discussed in the report are very specific and include recommendations. Those seem the most likely to be presented to the Legislature during the 2015 session. Others topics were discussed in less specific terms and appear to reflect the state’s view that additional analysis and discussion is needed. These topics appear more likely to be presented in future sessions if at all. The Legislative blue ribbon committee made 19 recommendations, with more focus on property tax changes.

This chart identifies some of the topics which have been discussed, as well as possible prospects for change. With the high level of effort this year to identify areas for improvement, there is a genuine opportunity to enhance Indiana’s tax climate and legitimate reason for optimism. On the other hand, a package which contains elements that raise revenue in order for the package to be revenue neutral or the temptation of the state to add or exclude elements in a package which give the state an unfair advantage in dispute resolution, could result in a package which includes provisions reflecting highly questionable tax policy and that hurt Indiana’s competitiveness and create further  omplexity to Indiana’s tax system, the exact opposite of the stated goals from the Governor’s tax conference.

Consequently, cautious optimism might be the best characterization.

While we do not yet know exactly what will be presented to the Legislature in 2015, many changes will likely be proposed and discussed. It could be an exceptionally interesting session.

Mark J. Richards is chairman of the Indiana Chamber Tax Policy Committee and a partner at Ice Miller LLP. 

Keystone XL Pipeline Defeat Will Likely Be Short-Lived

119744231The Keystone XL Pipeline bill was narrowly defeated Tuesday in the U.S. Senate. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar offers his thoughts on the policy and the latest activity in Washington:

“Canada is going to continue to develop the oil sands and sell to other nations whether the U.S. allows the Keystone XL Pipeline or not. Whatever the impact that activity has on the environment, the activity is still going to happen. That’s the reality. Continued posturing by the Obama Administration and others amid calls from environmental groups isn’t going to change that.

Other countries are looking out for their energy futures. The U.S. needs to as well. Going forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline is an important part of the mix. It would strengthen and expand our already vital energy relationship with Canada. And sourcing more of our energy from a friendly, North American neighbor will help reduce our reliance on energy resources from less stable areas of the world.

Indiana is fortunate to have two senators – Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly – who understand the pipeline’s importance and have been staunch supporters of the project. It’s too bad the Senate, on the whole, couldn’t get past politics and do the right thing for our nation’s energy security. However, we look forward to early 2015 when this measure seems destined to finally pass the Senate and make its way to the President’s desk.

Background: The proposed Keystone XL project would construct a 1,700 mile pipeline to transport about 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude oil from tar sand fields in Canada across the central U.S. to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Only the Elephants Might be Upset; No More Peanut Report

7324001You have to start somewhere when it comes to better utilizing taxpayer resources and getting rid of unnecessary government work. But rest assured, there is a long way to go.

Check out this Government Executive recap of some common sense legislation out of Washington:

The House  put the final touches on a widely embraced bill to eliminate or modify 53 useless or outdated agency reports, an effort backed by the White House as a cost-savings measure.

The vote tally of 382-0 was evidence that the only area of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in both chambers was precisely which reports to target in subjects ranging from the Agriculture Department’s write-up on the number of peanuts planted each year to the Homeland Security Department’s analysis of illegal imports of products made from dog and cat fur.

Though some studies have tagged nearly 300 reports as possibly superfluous, negotiators worked the number down. In June, the Office of Management and Budget identified 74 dubious reports; a Senate bill named 64; and a House bill passed in April listed 79.

“In today’s challenging fiscal environment, Congress must leverage every opportunity to save taxpayer dollars by streamlining or eliminating antiquated reporting requirements that are duplicative, irrelevant or simply ignored,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a co-sponsor. “While enacting the bipartisan Government Reports Elimination Act may not go as far as we would like, it nevertheless represents precisely the type of pragmatic, good government legislating that a divided Congress should be doing more of.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who had introduced a companion version, said, “Hundreds of federal employees spend countless hours producing mountains of these reports each year, and in many cases no one ever reads or even refers to those reports. Surely these agency resources could be targeted to smarter, more productive efforts that will actually provide more direct benefit to customers and taxpayers.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a co-author, cast the final bill as just “a first step toward making government smaller and smarter.” She and Warner introduced another bill that would target another 67 reports.

Harmonizing Music History with Worker Productivity

19188345Technology improvements are generally associated with getting the same amount of productivity with fewer workers. But something called the “quartet effect” – with links back to the lyrics of the Grateful Dead – instead emphasizes enhancing what people do with their time. Governing reports:

In the foreword to David Dodd’s The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, Robert Hunter, the band’s “lyricist in residence,” wrote that the song “Uncle John’s Band” represented “the first lyric I wrote with the aid of that newfangled gadget, the cassette tape recorder. I taped the band playing the arrangement and was able to score lyrics at leisure rather than scratch away hurriedly at rehearsals, waiting for particular sections to come around again.”

What Hunter was describing, of course, was an improvement in productivity resulting from the application of new technology. Productivity is usually measured in terms of the labor cost per unit of production, and in most cases improvement is achieved by using new technology to reduce head count. For instance, a steel mill that once employed 10,000 workers produces the same tonnage with only a thousand employees, bank tellers are replaced by ATMs and elevator operators become a thing of the past. But in Hunter’s application of new technology, no one’s position was eliminated. It’s an example of what has been called “the quartet effect” at work.

When you reduce the head count of a musical quartet, you have not improved its productivity. If what you wanted was the music of a quartet, you have destroyed the product. The technology Hunter employed is the kind that, rather than eliminating jobs, allows existing staff to make better use of their time and gives them the opportunity to create higher-quality products.

How is this relevant to government? For most local governments, public safety constitutes the largest single category of expenditures, typically accounting for about 60 percent of total costs. For states and for some local governments, education is the dominant cost category. But it’s important to remember that within these areas, personnel costs — the salaries and benefits of police officers, firefighters and school teachers — are the real cost drivers. Personnel costs typically represent 80 percent or more of the total cost of a police department, for example. Few would argue that taking cops off the streets or teachers out of classrooms improves productivity.

Many Tax Issues Under Consideration in Indiana

The Indiana Department of Revenue has posted the final report (with recommendations arising) from the Governor’s Tax Conference in June. The 70-page document is very comprehensive and interesting, containing a wide range of suggestions being endorsed by the Pence administration. Much is good, but there are also items that will raise some concern.

If you are a tax professional working for or representing an Indiana company, you need to review this report. It covers so many different subject areas that it is nearly certain that you will have a direct interest in something contained in the report. Whether it be the throw-back rule, personal property tax filings or any number of administrative issues, you will find something in this report to note and track, because some will surely serve as the impetus for legislation in the coming session.

Additionally, the Commission on Personal Property and Business Taxation has now met three times and taken a great volume of studies, presentations and testimony under consideration. The committee has taken on so many issues that the chair, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), announced that he has scheduled a meeting for November 12 to give commission members ample opportunity to discuss their final report (which was to be submitted prior to November 1).

It is difficult to guess whether the committee will make many detailed recommendations, but its final report will, in any case, include a great volume of information, data and recommendations from those who participated in the fact-finding exercise. It would be worthwhile to scan these documents presented to the commission to determine the matters that could impact your company. Here again, these matters will likewise almost certainly, in some part, serve as the basis of proposed legislation.

Study Committee Wraps Up Work Share Debate

At the end of August, the Interim Employment and Labor Committee heard testimony on work sharing, which was reported by the Indiana Chamber at that time. Recently, the committee met very briefly and reported its findings, but ultimately failed to issue a supportive recommendation.

Because of the number of committee members absent, it may have been difficult to get a recommendation that work share legislation be passed in 2015. As a result, Rep. David Ober (R – Albion) opted for a more neutral “report finding” and has assured the Indiana Chamber that there will be a work sharing bill filed for the upcoming legislative session.

While disappointed that a recommendation to support work share was not proposed, we are looking forward to once again continuing the debate. The Chamber expects to push forward on this issue, which would be a win for employees, business and state government.

NOTE: A work sharing program would allow employers to maintain a skilled and stable workforce during temporary downturns. Employers could reduce employee hours without layoffs, enabling workers to keep their jobs – which hopefully could be returned to full-time status once economic circumstances improve. The employer continues to provide benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans, while impacted employees are permitted to draw a partial unemployment benefit based upon the reduced hours. 

Chamber’s Top Honors Go to Lake City’s Kubacki, Rep. Brooks and Bloomington

KRH_7626Banking executive Mike Kubacki, Fifth District Congresswoman Susan Brooks and the city of Bloomington were all honored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce this evening at the organization’s 25th Annual Awards Dinner.

A crowd of approximately 1,500 attended the event at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Saturday Night Live alum and radio host Dennis Miller was the featured speaker.

The awards dinner was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

“All of our honorees have demonstrated supreme commitment to making Indiana a better place. Their efforts will be felt well beyond today and pay dividends for years to come,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Business Leader of the Year: Mike Kubacki, Lake City Bank executive chairman, Warsaw
Lake City Bank Executive Chairman Mike Kubacki grew up in the business, with his father serving as president of Pierceton State Bank in Whitley County.

After a 25-year career in Chicago and Los Angeles with Northern Trust, Kubacki returned home when the call came from Lake City.

“People come up to me and say, ‘I bank at your bank and your people in this office are great,’” Kubacki shares. “It’s really an outstanding job, and it’s a 24/7 job – but that doesn’t bother me. It’s a magnificent experience.

“As a leader of a community bank, there simply isn’t a distinction between what I do at work and at home. Back in the day, we’d say there are two kinds of people in the world for a community banker – customers and prospects. So you need to be on your best behavior all the time. If you don’t enjoy that, you shouldn’t be a banker,” he states.

During his 16 years as CEO (through earlier this year), Lake City increased its assets from $800 million to $3.2 billion. Kubacki led a team that expanded efforts beyond its home of Warsaw by establishing regional centers in South Bend, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. He also introduced a formalized training program called Lake City University.

That growth has earned widespread admiration. Dan Evans, CEO of Indiana University Health, was elected to the Lake City Bank board in 2010. He cites Kubacki’s leadership as a driver in his desire to serve. “Mike’s intensely focused on what is best for his customers and the communities that Lake City serves,” he notes.

In Kubacki’s current role as executive chairman and throughout his career, he has never been one to sit behind his desk. He says his office now is anywhere where he has his briefcase and cell phone. His direct relationships with clients, and community involvement are widespread.

David Findlay, current Lake City Bank CEO, says Kubacki’s role as chairman is equally as important as his prior one. “He’s a tremendous voice for the bank and the communities we serve. He’s one of the most effective calling officers I’ve ever seen in terms of his development of relationships with clients, centers of influence and prospects.”

Government Leader of the Year: Congresswoman Susan Brooks
Being a freshman is never easy. Fortunately for her constituents, Congresswoman Susan Brooks was a standout from the very beginning.

Her experiences as a lawyer, deputy mayor of Indianapolis, U.S. Attorney and at Ivy Tech Community College have helped her get off to a fast start. Prestigious committee assignments, reaching out across the aisle and actually moving legislation in a Congress plagued by partisanship are among the accomplishments.

Brooks asked for and received placement on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, plus the Committee on Homeland Security. She was also assigned to the Ethics Committee, which investigates the conduct of House members. In addition, earlier this year she was the only freshman asked to serve on the House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi.

Tom Snyder, Ivy Tech president, did not know Brooks prior to bringing her on board. In addition to strengthening the in-house legal capabilities at the community college, she helped developed what eventually became the school’s Corporate College (with an emphasis on training capabilities).

“Susan is an incredibly good listener in terms of business needs,” he explains. “She was a business advocate when she was here and she’s taken that position as she’s moved on to Congress.

“She’s had two bills passed in a Congress that has a reputation for not getting bills passed. I think Susan is an example that if you get the right people in Congress, they get past institutional barriers and get things done.”

Of the approximately 70 House members voted into office two years ago, Brooks states, “People want us to try and be different because they are so fed up and angry about the gridlock.”

Sarah Evans Barker, longtime judge of the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana where Brooks was a U.S. attorney, believes Brooks has what it takes to make a difference: “Susan brings the same outlook, same approach, and same dedication and good humor to every responsibility she is given – and people trust her for that. She is who she is. It’s a wonderful fact about her and wonderful description of her.”

Community of the Year: Bloomington
If you look at just the last decade alone, the city of Bloomington has been on the cutting edge in several industries.

The life sciences sector – led by world-renowned device manufacturer Cook Medical Group – continues to thrive. An emergence in the high-tech arena is also paying dividends.

The work of the Bloomington Technology Partnership (BTP) has helped pave the way with a variety of endeavors. Another key factor driving technology has been the education and knowledge housed at both Ivy Tech and Indiana University.

“Just over the last 10 years, we’ve seen something like 500 patents come out of the work of all our faculty members – and many of those patents have led to either technologies that have been licensed or the development of start-up companies,” says Indiana University President Michael McRobbie.

“So over about the same period, we’ve seen nearly 40 new companies get established that have grown out of IU-developed technologies and innovations.”

The city believes its crown jewel will be a 65-acre certified technology park that includes a 12-acre core property currently under development in downtown. Weekly networking events, numerous technology gatherings and an annual three-day conference further emphasize the importance placed on the tech economy.

But life is about far more than work, and Bloomington’s prosperity and popularity is strongly rooted in its culture and attractions. It’s something the city consciously uses to its advantage.

Mayor Mark Kruzan: “Our economic development strategy is based on the notion that quality of life is synonymous with economic vitality. We’re trying to make Bloomington the kind of place people want to visit, live, work, invest in. That’s what’s fueling the economy.”

Community leaders and residents come together to tackle challenges and create new opportunities. Above all, they are passionate about their hometown.

“There are some of the geekiest, smartest people working on tech startups here. And every single one of them is creating a product that blows me away every time,” notes Katie Birge, director of the BTP.

Concludes McRobbie: “I’ve never regretted for a nanosecond moving here. I love living in Bloomington … it really is a wonderful environment in which to live.”
Ivy Tech Community College served as the speaker sponsor for the event, while the opening reception sponsor was Uzelac & Associates. The speaker reception sponsor was Hirons & Company: Advertising + Public Relations.

The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year Phil Bounsall (Walker, Indianapolis); Jill Ritchie (Indiana Beverage, Valparaiso); and Heather Wilson (Frost Brown Todd, Indianapolis) were announced during a lunch ceremony.

Tom Easterday, executive vice president of Subaru of Indiana Automotive, of Lafayette, was elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2015 chair of the board of directors.

Videos honoring the award winners that were shown at tonight’s event can be viewed at www.indianachamber.com/go2/winners. Read more about the winners at www.bizvoicemagazine.com.

RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS:
Business Leader of the Year
Steve Ferguson – 2013
Scott Dorsey – 2012
Jean Wojtowicz – 2011
Mike Wells – 2010
John Swisher – 2009

Community of the Year
Bedford – 2013
Indianapolis – 2012
Kokomo – 2011
Terre Haute – 2010
Valparaiso – 2009

Government Leader of the Year
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar – 2013
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – 2011
Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction – 2010
Stan Jones, former state commissioner for higher education – 2009

IBRG’s Brantley: Election a ‘Mini-Mandate’ in Indiana to Stay on Course

UOur friends at Inside INdiana Business interviewed Jeff Brantley, the Indiana Chamber’s VP of Political Affairs and our PAC, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), about Tuesday’s election (the link includes an audio clip about the federal elections as well). Here’s the synopsis (edited for accuracy):

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of political affairs believes Hoosier voters in yesterday’s mid-term elections delivered a “mini-mandate” to legislators to continue focusing on job growth and the business community. All Indiana Congressional incumbents won re-election and Republicans swept the contests for secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Jeff Brantley says voter turnout appears to be higher than anticipated and believes results in Indiana General Assembly races demonstrate Hoosiers like the direction policy makers are going.

Only one U.S. Congressional race, the 7th District between Representative Andre Carson and challenger Catherine Ping, was within 15 points. The winners are:

Peter Visclosky (D-1)
Jackie Walorski (R-2)
Marlin Stutzman (R-3)
Todd Rokita (R-4)
Susan Brooks (R-5)
Luke Messer (R-6)
Andre’ Carson (D-7)
Larry Bucshon (R-8)
Todd Young (R-9)

Statewide office winners were Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R), Suzanne Crouch (R) for State Treasurer and Kelly Mitchell (R) for State Auditor.

Jeff Brantley says, with only one exception, all candidates the organization endorsed were victorious.

Some incumbents in the Indiana General Assembly were unseated. They include Sen. Richard Young (D-47), who was beaten by Republican Erin Houchin, and Senator Tim Skinner (D-38), who lost to Republican Jon Ford. Incumbent Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-12) and Shelli VanDenburgh (D-19) also fell.

Kansas Independent Could Be Wild Card in Senate (Or Not, We’ll See)

AAccording to Huffington Post polling, there’s a 79% chance the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate today (and The Washington Post contends there’s a whopping 98% chance). No surprise it’s likely to happen if you’ve been following along.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that HuffPo also calculates a 9% chance that Greg Orman, an independent in an extremely tight race against Republican three-term Senator Pat Roberts, could determine which party rules based on where he decides to caucus (should he win his race).

Read this Politico piece to find out why Republicans think he’ll actually caucus with Democrats, and what that could mean going forward. (And this may shock you, but Vice President Biden reportedly let the ol’ cat out of the bag on this matter earlier today.)

At any rate, Orman’s campaign is making for interesting theater during this mid-term election season.