Indiana Chamber Unveils Our Top Six Legislative Priorities for 2016

statehouse picTransportation infrastructure funding, reverse credit transfer to the state’s accredited two-year colleges and expansion of the state’s civil rights law are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2016 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual Central Indiana Legislative Preview in Indianapolis today.

The Indiana Chamber proposes an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges. These include dedicating more of the state’s sales tax on fuel purchases to infrastructure, increasing and indexing fuel excise taxes and implementing fees on alternative fuel vehicles.

“Indiana benefited greatly from the Major Moves program that accelerated our timeline and funded $4 billion worth of projects over the last decade. But those dollars are spent or allocated. It’s time to move forward with the next generation of resources to drive our economy by moving people and products throughout our state and beyond,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“Legislative action is needed in the coming session to address glaring needs and begin implementing long-term strategies to allow our state to live up to its ‘Crossroads of America’ designation.”

Brinegar concludes that the good news is that legislative leaders, the Governor and others are on the same page about the need; the challenge will be how to get there.

Higher education is also a focal point for the Indiana Chamber. One specific proposal the organization will be pushing for is a method to allow for more students to turn their existing college credits into a two-year degree. This would be accomplished by allowing specific credits earned at state-supported colleges and universities to be transferrable to Indiana’s accredited two-year schools, such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes. Credit is already generally transferrable from the two-year schools to their four-year counterparts.

“This would give students more opportunity for post-secondary attainment and then obviously help with employment,” Brinegar offers. “Specifically, it would help fill the gap for those individuals who first went to a four-year school but for whatever reason couldn’t continue. This would be a viable path for them to turn their efforts into a two-year degree and become more attractive to employers.”

Earlier this month, the Indiana Chamber announced its support for expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, with Brinegar noting:

“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step.”

Another initiative the organization will again pursue is a work sharing program, which will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns and enable employees to keep their jobs but with reduced hours and salary (which is partially offset by unemployment insurance). This program has enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle the last few years, but has yet to cross the finish line.

“There is no negative impact on the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Instead of paying full benefits to a smaller group of recipients, a larger group of employees will receive limited benefits – but most importantly remain on the job,” Brinegar explains. “There is no reason not to enact a work share program to help meet future employee and employer needs. They deserve that option.”

The other two legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber are maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures (in the face of recent “big box” retail stores’ appeals and reaction to that); and expanding publicly-funded preschool from the pilot program to statewide so more children are prepared to enter kindergarten.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at

Also at the legislative preview event, four state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the 2015 legislative session.

The 2015 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Rodric Bray from Martinsville, District #37; Sen. Carlin Yoder from Middlebury, District #12; Rep. David Ober from Albion, District #82; and Rep. John Price from Greenwood, District #47.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 6 legislative priorities:

  • Support an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges
  • Support specific credit transfer from Indiana’s four-year, state-supported institutions to the state’s accredited two-year colleges
  • Support expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Support a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns
  • Support maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures
  • Support the development of publicly-funded preschool initiatives statewide

Lawmakers Hear from INDOT on Road Funding; Gov. Makes $1 Billion No-Tax Proposal

30449450Two key events in recent weeks on the transportation front in Indiana: A long-awaited Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) study on long-term funding options for Indiana’s roads, highways and bridges was presented on Oct. 15 to the Interim Study Committee on Roads and Transportation; and just a few days before, on Oct. 13, Gov. Pence proposed a $1 billion, four-year plan for short-term transportation needs whose most prominent feature was no tax increases. INDOT Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson appeared with the governor at his announcement and testified before the interim study committee.

Hendrickson provided a broad overview of the state of Indiana’s roads and bridges during her testimony and INDOT’s study vendor, Cambridge Systematics, testified at length on the options available to the state to address long-term transportation funding, concluding that policymakers need to “decide what Indiana should invest in and how best to pay for it.” Both federal and state highway revenues are expected to decline in future years due to a number of factors, including increased fuel efficiency standards and more alternative-fuel vehicles hitting the roads.

All fuel excise tax revenues from the state’s highway fund are required for maintenance of existing infrastructure; no funding is available for expansion projects such as completion of I-69, adding lanes to I-65 or I-70, or new bridges across the Ohio River. Additionally, more than half of the state’s bridges are in the last 25 years of their useful life (50-plus years or older) and will need significant reconstruction or remediation in coming years.

Bottom line: The state needs more revenues to address a growing need for maintenance of existing infrastructure – let alone expansion of the state’s highway network.

Pence proposes a mix of bonding (debt), general fund appropriations and use of the state’s reserves in his “21st Century Crossroads” plan. His proposal would seek $450 million over three years to be appropriated by the General Assembly from the state’s general fund, $250 million to be used from the state’s reserve funds, $50 million from the state’s Next Generation Trust Fund (established by Major Moves monies) and roughly $240 million in new bond financing as existing debt gets retired or refinanced. The plan is short term in nature and, while tapping appropriate sources, needs the consent of the Legislature (where several Statehouse voices expressed reservations about the bonding aspect of the plan).

The Indiana Chamber would like to see a mix of increased fuel excise taxes, indexation, tolling, fees on alternative fuel vehicles and other tools based upon a “user fee” model discussed in the 2016 legislative session, along with the use of existing tax authority by cities, towns and counties to address the needs of local streets and county roads. Policymakers must make some hard choices with the support of the state’s business community to address the scale and scope of the challenge.

In short, the era of strategic investments fueled by the Major Moves program is over. The prevailing (default) practice of making stop-gap appropriations from the state’s general fund is not a reliable or strategic means to pay for future maintenance and upgrades to Indiana’s surface transportation network. Currently, we risk wasting strategic investments already made, and our roads and highways will deteriorate along with our reputation as “The Crossroads of America.”

Chamber Convenes Infrastructure Leadership to Discuss I-65, Long-Term Solutions

10049160The Indiana Chamber recently brought together a trio of the state’s top leadership on infrastructure issues to discuss Indiana’s current maintenance and funding challenges, including the closure of Interstate 65 near Lafayette due to emergency bridge repairs, and long-term solutions to an estimated $1 billion annual road and bridge maintenance funding gap.

Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown M.D. (R-Crawfordsville), and House Roads and Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) appeared before the Chamber’s Infrastructure Policy Committee to share their views and hear the viewpoints of the state’s business leadership.

INDOT Commissioner Hendrickson stated that the I-65 closure represented significant logistical and engineering challenges and economic costs, but that the bridge repairs should be completed and the interstate back online by mid-September. She stated that INDOT was doing all it could to expedite the process, but that the bridge failure pointed to the state’s maintenance needs. A statutorily required study of potential funding mechanisms has been underway and will be made public at a legislative interim study committee this fall, most likely in October.

Both Brown and Soliday agreed that the state needs to commit for funding to road and bridge maintenance – and that was the case prior to the I-65 bridge incident. Brown suggested that revenue projections look pretty good for the $200 million appropriated to the 2020 fund to be deployed later this year, but acknowledged that more needed to be done – most likely in 2017, the next budget-writing session of the General Assembly. He also said he was open to using the $500 million in the Next Generation Trust Fund for immediate infrastructure maintenance needs. Brown would like to see a “consistent funding stream on an annual basis for transportation infrastructure” enacted in the future, but left all options on the table pending review of the INDOT study.

Soliday praised the INDOT study and described it as a “tool to look at a number of funding mechanisms and options”; he plans to hold a study committee hearing in October to review the tool and various options. Soliday said that the average Hoosier driving 12,000 miles/year pays about $108/year in taxes for transportation infrastructure and described that as a “bargain” compared to the average monthly cell phone or cable TV bills consumers pay. Both legislators were supportive of public-private partnerships and progress on existing road projects; they expressed frustration that county wheel taxes had not been more fully utilized to address local funding needs for local and county roads.

It was clear from the panel discussion that it is a question of when and how the transportation funding gap will be addressed, not “if” it will be addressed. Most likely, these issues will begin to be discussed in-depth in the 2016 legislative session with some supplemental funding being found, but that a longer-term solution will be waiting until the budget-writing process in 2017.

VIDEO: Time to Move Forward and Improve Indiana’s Infrastructure

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the importance of improving Indiana’s infrastructure. 2016 looks to be the “year of infrastructure” at the Statehouse, and Brinegar asserts “Indiana can’t wait for Washington to act.”

Sen. Donnelly: “Roads Aren’t Republican or Democrat”


In a visit with the Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Policy Committee today, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) said he believes a new long-term highway infrastructure bill should be enacted yet this year.

Citing “desperate, crying” infrastructure needs, the senator said two imperatives are to “make sure we (Indiana) get our share” and “make sure we get it funded. We’re talking about  a six-year deal. I’ll take a five-year deal (if need be).”

Indiana is currently receiving 95 cents back on each tax dollar that it sends to Washington. In recent discussions, Donnelly voted no on a proposal that would have included Indiana’s share dropping to between 90 cents and 92 cents on the dollar. The goal, he says, is for no state to be funded at a lower percentage level than in the last long-term deal.

Transportation funding has been dependent on a series of short-term extensions that have not provided the resources needed for states to act with any certainty. Donnelly cited several instances of the damaging impact in Indiana, including the current closure of Interstate 65 near Lafayette due to bridge instability.

“Roads aren’t Republican or Democrat; they’re roads,” he explains. “There’s no way to do this without investment. I’m for seven different ways to fund this thing. Just pick one (or more). I just want to build roads.”

Donnelly also discussed potential changes to the Affordable Care Act (including his support for elimination of the medical device tax), the consequences of Washington legislating through Executive Orders, the debt limit, immigration, Iran, global environmental concerns and more.

Congress is scheduled to resume its work in Washington after Labor Day. Indiana Chamber members will be traveling to Washington on September 16-17 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. You can still register to participate.

Indiana Logistics Summit to Kick Off Sept. 22

2015 LOGISTICS SUMMIT LOGO JPEGThe Indiana Logistics Summit is fast approaching, and will convene in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 22 (and a VIP Colts tailgate reception will be held at Crane Bay on Sept. 21). Visit or call (866) 515-0023 to register or receive more information. (Registration is $175 per person, or call Liz Folkerts at (317) 232-9205 for information on group rates.)

There is something for everyone at the 2015 Indiana Logistics Summit as top executives from Google, GE Aviation, Indianapolis Colts, Fair Oaks Farms, NCAA, Harvard Business School, IndyCar and others will be featured speakers at the 13th annual event on Tuesday, Sept. 22, in the Indiana Convention Center. The Summit will bring 300 leaders to Indianapolis to hear educational presentations about logistics from a variety of industries and to celebrate the Indianapolis Colts’ home opener on Monday Night Football.

In conjunction with a “Logistics in Sports” segment, the evening reception for Summit attendees will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, at The Crane Bay as part of the Colts VIP Tailgate leading up to the Colts game versus the New York Jets. Tickets to the reception are complimentary with Summit registration, and include a Morton Steakhouse buffet, cocktail bars hosted by Jim Beam, visits from Colts cheerleaders and former players, the live broadcast site for the Colts’ pregame show, an NFL memorabilia auction and much more.

The Indiana Logistics Summit is co-hosted by Purdue University, the Ports of Indiana and Conexus Indiana to promote the logistics industry and showcase the critical role this sector plays in the national economy. Some topics to be featured at this year’s program include:

– The Role of Logistics in Attracting Indiana’s Mega Projects
– A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Logistics in Sports
– Closing the Skills Gap to Improve U.S. Competitiveness
– New Solutions for the National Transportation Infrastructure Crisis
– Emerging Technologies: Unmanned Systems, Smart Drones and What’s Next?

There will also be a special “Logistics U” program for high school students to learn about career and educational opportunities in logistics.

“This is a can’t-miss event for anyone interested in logistics, sports, drones or the future of our economy,” said Rich Cooper, CEO for the Ports of Indiana. “Logistics is something that Indiana knows very well. Our robust transportation infrastructure and central location create tremendous logistical advantages for businesses that move products by air, rail, truck and water. The Summit celebrates the importance of this industry and provides an important platform for informative discussions among businesses, leaders and transportation professionals. This year’s program will offer a diverse group of topics that will appeal to a broad audience.”

The Summit program opens with the Keynote Breakfast featuring a presentation titled “Grass to Glass Logistics” by Mike McCloskey, the CEO of Select Milk Producers and owner of Fair Oaks Farms, one of the nation’s largest dairies. The Northwest Indiana dairy recently announced a new partnership venture with Coca-Cola that is aimed at revolutionizing milk consumption across the country.

There will also be an inside look at the Indianapolis Colts’ ‘Midnight Move’ from Baltimore, the NCAA’s coordination of 90 national championships per year, and a preview of the ‘100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.’ Emerging technologies will be explored in a futuristic session focused on the development of drone delivery systems, the launch of the state’s first college major in unmanned vehicles and companies with real-world applications for drones in logistics. Top national experts will also share recommendations for how businesses, government and academia can help address two of the biggest challenges facing the logistics industry – aging transportation infrastructure and workforce development in closing the skills gap.

Plastic Paving in Our Future?

9809397We’ve got an infrastructure funding problem in our state and country. This likely isn’t one of the solutions currently being considered. But then think of all the technological advances we enjoy today that were once just a dream. has the story:

If you drive a car, then you’ve invariably experienced the insanity and frustration that potholes can cause. Roads made of asphalt aren’t perfect. They crack and crumble. The longer they go without repairs the more damage they inflict on our cars (and insurance policies).

One construction company in the Netherlands thinks it has the solution: roads made of recycled plastic from the ocean. Scientists at construction firm VolkerWessels are collaborating with the city of Rotterdam in Holland to build prototypes of these pre-frabricated strips of road called PlasticRoad.

The benefits of pre-fab roads made of recycled plastic, as VolkerWessels sees them:

  • Built in a fraction of the construction time (weeks, not months)
  • Virtually maintenance free
  • Can withstand greater extremes in temperature (-40 degrees F to nearly 180 degree F)
  • They have three times the expected lifespan of traditional asphalt
  • Have a lightweight design, meaning roadways could more easily be moved or adjusted

PlasticRoad would also have a hollow space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater, VolkerWessels says. Check it out

The next step in the prototype phase is to test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions, VolkerWessels says. If all goes well, the company hopes to lay the first fully recycled roadway sometime within three years, Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, said in a recent interview.

One can only imagine how much more quiet rubber tires on plastic roads would be than on asphalt. And, sayonara potholes. Good riddance.

Federal Highway Funding Deadline Nears

36601064The current federal funding stream for highways runs its course July 31. The Senate is looking at a four-year option, while the House appears more in favor of extending it through this year and soon revisiting the matter.

Every member of Indiana’s delegation is keenly aware of the situation. While in D.C. this week, the Indiana Chamber continued to advocate for a long-term solution to financing the federal Highway Trust Fund. A patchwork of re-authorizations that are often only for a few months is no way to manage transportation assets, set national priorities or plan for future needs. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in his letter this week to state departments of transportation:

“Congress’s failure to pass a long-term bill is of great concern to all of us who are engaged in the work of building and maintaining our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Careening from self-inflicted crisis to self-inflicted crisis undermines our system. We need Congress to break the cycle of short-term extensions; we need a long-term bill with significant growth.”

Highway Trust Fund Has Some Potholes

36601064The Congressional Budget Office asserts the national Highway Trust Fund would need $3 billion in ADDITIONAL revenue to keep funding transportation projects through the end of September. And it would need $8 billion if Congress chose to extend funding authority until the end of 2015. Read more via The Hill.

Obviously, there are serious challenges facing America’s road infrastructure.

Cam Carter, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of economic development and federal relations, outlines the main problem.

“Congress needs to get its act together and summon the political will to fashion a long-term solution to the insolvency of the highway trust fund,” he asserts. “We’ve had our fill of short-term patches. Some will say that the highway fund is insolvent because today’s vehicles are more fuel efficient and that is depressing revenues going into the fund – and there is some truth to this. But, the greater truth is that Congress hasn’t raised fuel taxes to keep up with inflation since 1993 and that, more than anything, is the root of the problem.”