Those who voted in our most recent blog poll were not overly impressed with the work of the Indiana General Assembly in 2013. The grades and the percentage of votes received:
We conducted a roundtable for our BizVoice magazine earlier this week. Giving their views on the session were Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, two House legislators (Democrat Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne and Republican Jerry Torr of Carmel) and Evansville Statehouse reporter Eric Bradner. You'll be able to check out their analysis in the July-August issue.
Our new question, top right of this page, seeks your opinion on federal health care reform as implementation moves closer.
Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offers a two-minute wrap-up of the 2013 legislative session. Highlighting his review are thoughts on the new budget, tax relief and critical education and workforce development issues.
The accolades and tributes are rightfully pouring in for Otis "Doc" Bowen. The former legislator, governor and member of Ronald Reagan's Cabinet passed away over the weekend at the age of 95.
I was a student during Bowen's two terms as governor (1973-81). For several of those years, our basketball coach at East Central High School (southeastern Indiana, near Cincinnati) was Rick Bowen, the governor's son. Duties in Indianapolis and around the state certainly kept the state's executive leader busy, but I do recall a few visits he was able to make to St. Leon.
I'm not exaggerating when I say those were very, very special nights at the old high school gym. As a member of the basketball program (statistics and sports writing as my lack of speed and jumping ability had caught up with me by that time), I did have the opportunity to speak briefly with the governor. He was, of course, humble and wanted to talk about his son and our team on the court.
I've read more than a few stories about Bowen, his accomplishments and his classic small-town Hoosier style. He was an outstanding ambassador for our state, no matter what role he was serving. Our best wishes to his family and friends.
House Bill 1427 preserves the state’s Common Core academic standards and allows for continued implementation.
The Indiana General Assembly rejected the attacks on Common Core and allowed the standards, which the State Board of Education adopted in August 2010, to continue to be implemented. (Only the elements of the program not already adopted – such as testing and science standards – would be paused under HB 1427).
In another strong move, the Legislature mandated standards that include Common Core as the foundation and require college and career readiness criteria. By those standards still being based on Common Core, that should assure that Indiana keeps its federal waiver (that removed us from the federal No Child Left Behind program) and Title I funding for our schools.
It was also critically important that the ultimate decision-making on Common Core remain with the State Board of Education (as it does), which has adopted all previous Indiana standards (including Common Core) and doesn’t face the same politically-charged environment that exists at the Statehouse.
While we don’t agree that actual new adoption procedures are necessary, several positives could result from that. Further review of the Common Core standards would hopefully provide the general public with a better understanding of what Common Core does and doesn’t do. Plus it will give the state the opportunity to determine which, if any, additional standards we should adopt. (The Common Core multi-state agreement permits Indiana to add up to 15% of its own standards to the program.)
The Indiana Chamber advocated for the Common Core standards to be left in place, both for the merits of the program and the consistency of the rulemaking process.
We asked a few weeks ago for your opinion about Gov. Pence's income tax cut proposal and where state legislators would end up in their budget. A 5% cut divided between 2015 (3%) and 2017 (additional 2%) was not one of the options.
I guess that would fall under what was choice D (other), which received 3% of the vote. The other choices were:
Full 10% cut as proposed by Pence: 43%
3% cut per the bill passed by the Senate: 27%
No tax cut, which was part of the House bill: 27%
Lawmakers have termed the overall budget as the largest tax cut ($1 billion) in the state's history. The Indiana Chamber's upcoming legislative analysis will have more details, but that does include an immediate elimination of the state inheritance tax (in fact, it makes the elimination retroactive to January 1, 2013) instead of the nine-year phase-out that was passed in 2012.
The budget, as always, was a high-profile issue but just one of the topics that garnered attention. Again, more Chamber review is on the way but our new poll question asks for your overall grade of the 2013 General Assembly. Cast your vote at the top right of this page.
Earlier today, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Indiana Senate President David Long announced a deal had been reached on House Bill 1001, the two-year state budget. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts to the budget provisions:
"The new state budget has a strong focus on jobs and economic growth, putting additional investments into education and workforce development while also making important tax cuts.
"Trimming the individual income tax rate by 5% will not only benefit working Hoosiers but also many of the state's smallest business owners.
"It was particularly important to see some K-12 funding restored (cut during the last budget process) and more dollars targeted for our highways and infrastructure system.
"Meanwhile, the immediate elimination of the inheritance tax is long overdue and will lift a significant burden off of small, family-owned businesses.
"We commend House and Senate leaders, the governor's office and all those who got the budget to where it is — fiscally sound and including a wide variety of positive provisions for Hoosiers."
Over 120 members and supporters of Indy Connect Now are pushing Indiana legislators — via a letter – to support the mass transit bill to enhance connectivity in Central Indiana — a sentiment held by many businesses and organizations across the state. The letter reads as follows:
As community leaders in central Indiana, we strongly encourage the Indiana General Assembly to pass substantive transit legislation before it adjourns in order to give our community the ability to make its own decisions about investing in a regional transit system.
The Indianapolis Region will not continue to grow and prosper unless we make strategic investments in our community, including in a robust regional transit system. Study after study has recognized the need for building such a system in our region. Cities all across America have realized the benefits from investing in good transit systems, and our inability to make that investment puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
The issue has been studied long enough. Following the release of the last legislative study report on this issue in December 2008, a Task Force of public and private sector partners proposed a transit system that most effectively meets the needs of our community. For the past four years, that proposal has been refined with input from thousands of residents, advice from the best planning experts in the country, and best practices from cities around the country.
The time has come to let the voters decide whether they want to invest in this proposed system. All we ask is that the General Assembly gives us the same flexibility to use local funds that it previously gave to 15 other counties and to let us present the question to voters, similar to what is now required for school capital projects. With support that is trending upward, it is time to allow voters to determine whether or not our communities will be competitive and meet transportation needs in the next decade and beyond.
If this legislation passes now, it will allow us to have a robust discussion for the next eighteen months about the wisdom of making this investment. Residents will then be able to make an informed decision about funding an expanded regional transit system. It is imperative that the General Assembly act now to provide this opportunity to the residents of central Indiana.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently honored members of Congress (252 in the House; 48 Senators) for their pro-jobs, pro-growth stances with the annual Spirit of Enterprise Award.
“In the face of high-stakes politics and difficult choices, legislators from both parties provided America’s job creators with a strong voice in Congress,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “This award recognizes these men and women for consistently demonstrating their support for pro-growth policies.”
The Chamber’s prestigious Spirit of Enterprise Award, in its 25th year, is given annually to members of Congress based on key business issues outlined in the Chamber publication How They Voted. Members who support the Chamber’s position on at least 70% of those votes qualify to receive the award.
The Chamber scored Congress on 8 Senate and 12 House votes in 2012, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia, and the reauthorization of surface transportation legislation. Also scored were votes to repeal onerous provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, improve the process by which regulations are promulgated, and better secure the United States from cyber threats.
Sen. Dan Coats
Sen. Richard G. Lugar
Rep. Joseph Donnelly (IN-2)
Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman (IN-3)
Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4)
Rep. Dan Burton (IN-5)
Rep. Mike Pence (IN-6)
Rep. Larry Bucshon (IN -8)
Rep. Todd Young (IN-9)
State budget watchers have been talking about the April update of the revenue forecast for months. This is because everyone knew that the numbers that came out this week revising the December projections for state tax receipts over the next two-plus years would be the numbers that control the final form of the FY 2014-FY 2015 biennium budget. While the significance of the April update is not to be diminished, the reality is that many of the “down in the weeds” budget crafters are the same people that generate the forecast. The Revenue Forecast Committee includes fiscal analysts from each of the four caucuses and a representative from the state budget agency – and these people are the ones that the fiscal leaders work with to put the budget together. So this means the folks who have been doing the hands-on budget detail work had a pretty good idea of what the April numbers would be earlier than when they were publically presented on Tuesday. But they couldn’t really generate revised numbers until they had enough indication of what the overall economic forecast would be. It is those trends and indicators that serve as the basis for the group’s revenue projections. The economic forecast (or outlook as they call it) is performed by IHS Global Insights (the largest and most renowned
economics organization in the world).
The revenue forecasters apply economic variables to their formula guided by IHS Global Insight’s economic forecast/outlook for Indiana. The group’s presentation this week indicated continuation of a stable but slow recovery, a slight slowing of consumer spending and higher nonwage income. In response to the economic picture, the revenue forecasters made some modifications to their revenue forecasting model and also made an adjustment to the gaming tax projections to account for more out-of state-competition. The resulting bottom line was an upward revision of $290 million over the previous forecast for the balance of FY 2013 (+$33M), FY 2014(+73M) and FY 2015 (+$184M). Nearly all of the increase is attributable to projected individual income tax receipts in the next biennium. The individual income tax projections were increased by 3% and 4% for FY 2014 and FY 2015 respectively. This translates to $70 million and $151 million more than the December forecast.
The forecast’s show of strength in personal income growth could itself become the subject of debate in the budget negotiations since it can be argued two different ways. Those supporting a tax cut will point to it as evidence that the state is collecting too much in this particular category of revenue, while those cautioning against a cut will suggest that this demonstrates the volatility and uncertainty of a steady income stream. Will the forecasts cause the House budget-makers and the Senate budgetmakers to change their thinking and reconsider the tax cuts? Perhaps, but consider that $290 million is only 1% of the total budget and is really nothing more than an adjustment of a prior estimate.
However you want to view it, it is a positive upswing and that fact alone should help the Governor’s cause for the individual income tax rate reduction.
I'll risk showing my age by asking how many remember the advertising phrase: "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" The ads on U.S. television go back to 1970.
I was somehow reminded of that when reading a recent headline that said: "How many clicks does it take to get to state tax information online?" Not quite as exciting or tasty a subject, but there is that alliteration.
The Tax Foundation asked the second question. Indiana was one of five states at the bottom of that list, requiring five clicks in order for a visitor to the state web site to find 2012 individual income tax rates. Three states (Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania) provided access with only two clicks.
A second query focused more on quantity of information rather than ease of locating. States were evaluated on the availability of 2012 and 2013 tax rate schedules, tax tables and tax forms. Five states had a perfect six score; Indiana was one of 11 with a five out of six.
What does it all mean? One takeaway is that states would be well served to reduce taxpayer frustration at an already frustrating time for many by making tax information available in an easy-to-locate manner. And, anytime you can pull out a 43-year-old Tootsie Pop reference, you have to take advantage of it.