VIDEO: Pres. Brinegar Wraps up the 2013 Legislative Session

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.

Governor Gets Down to Business Quickly

While the Indiana General Assembly began its work on January 7, new Gov. Mike Pence had to wait a week for his January 14 inauguration. He quickly went to work, however, with significant positive actions on his first two days on the job.

A series of executive orders that Pence signed following his official ascension into office included a moratorium on new rules and regulations (with obvious emergency exceptions) that were not proposed before January 14, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of existing administrative rules. Priority will be given to review of those rules with the most negative effect on job creation and economic development.

Candidate Pence promised this action leading up to the election. While federal regulatory challenges are often at the forefront today, this step will help ensure that state government is not unnecessarily limiting job and economic growth.

On day two, the Pence team delivered a two-year, $29 billion spending plan to the State Budget Committee. The first six pages of this extensive document provide an overview of the key elements.

This is a very good starting point for legislators. It is a fiscally sound proposal, with a focus on meeting key state priorities and providing the 10% individual income tax relief (which also encompasses 90% of Hoosier businesses) that Pence proposed in his campaign. As we’ve indicated previously, lawmakers have questioned whether the income tax cut should take precedence over other budget desires. That will be worked out in the legislative process and could be determined by the updated revenue forecast that will be presented in early April.

A few highlights:

  • A 1% increase in each of the next two years for K-12 and higher education. The second year for K-12 would have that 1% be divided among the state’s highest performing schools. Combined, the education funding totals 65% of the budget.
  • While the administration did not include money to specifically expand the Medicaid program as outlined under federal health care reform, it does significantly increase funding for health insurance for the poor – from $1.65 billion this year to $2.1 billion in 2015.
  • The budget calls for a change in projected excess revenues. After 12.5% of annual spending is set aside in reserves, the remainder would be divided between the automatic income tax credits that were enacted during the Daniels administration and a new fund to help maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure critical to economic growth.
  • Spending is kept in line in this proposal. A structural surplus is maintained and reserves are allocated effectively, with the infrastructure fund a good start to the larger question of financing future transportation needs. The Chamber will be working with the governor’s team and legislators to help ensure that as many pro-job, pro-economy priorities as possible are achieved in a responsible manner.

Our People, Our Future: Why We “Stick Our Noses” in Education

The question came our way much more frequently in the past. The fact that it occasionally is still asked today is a true mystery.

The inquiry: Why is the Indiana Chamber of Commerce “sticking its nose in the middle of” education debates? The answer: Skilled workers, if it hasn’t always been this way, are the absolute number one factor in determining the success of our state’s companies, their employees and our communities.

Yes, many other factors come into play. Tax burdens, health care costs, moving people and products, having adequate and affordable natural resources, and encouraging entrepreneurs are a few of the other critical ingredients. But as Mitch Daniels, who just wrapped up eight years as governor, is fond of saying, Indiana has established a pretty good sandbox or toolkit.

All the sand in the desert or tools in the garage are not enough if people aren’t prepared to take advantage. Organizations of all types and sizes throughout the state (and country) will quickly tell anyone who listens that their employees are their greatest asset. When that human talent is not able to adapt, work in teams or learn new technologies, that critical asset can turn into a liability.

Many of you have likely heard me say or read in BizVoice that it’s no accident that Outstanding Talent is the top driver listed in the Indiana Vision 2025 plan. What does that mean? Indiana must excel at all levels of education and workforce training. We have to make sure Hoosiers – whether young students, those just beginning their careers or older employees – have the resources they need to be successful. We have to challenge the status quo. We have to demand improvement and accept innovation.

Any less would be a dramatic disservice. That is why the Indiana Chamber, and all of us, needs to be in the middle of the debate.
 

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.

Indy Named 2012 Indiana Chamber Community of the Year

For the second time in the 23-year history of the statewide community award, Indianapolis has earned top honors from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Indianapolis was announced as the 2012 Community of the Year today at a downtown press conference on Georgia Street, a location which highlights the city’s ongoing infrastructure improvements, economic growth and beautification efforts.

"I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of the City of Indianapolis and our residents, our community groups and businesses — large and small — and our employees, who all come together to make Indianapolis the wonderful place it is," says Mayor Greg Ballard.

"Indianapolis is a destination for people and for businesses. Because of our impeccable financials, AAA-debt rating, stable tax environment and balanced budgets, businesses know what to expect in Indy — which makes them more likely to act, create jobs and invest in Indianapolis because they can plan."

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar on the selection: "Super Bowl XLVI put Indianapolis center stage internationally and marked the pinnacle in a long history of events and developments that have made it a continuing success story.

"The capital city has a varied and growing list of cultural amenities, business diversity and vibrant neighborhoods, as well as strong leadership and a powerful spirit among its residents. This honor is deserved on so many levels," he emphasizes.

Among the specifics cited by the Indiana Chamber:

  • CityWay, a business and residential combination near the Eli Lilly campus that will serve as a connecting point to the rest of downtown
  • 16 Tech, a partnership that will build on existing strengths in medicine, life sciences and high-tech organizations
  • Unprecedented road and sidewalk construction as part of Rebuild Indy, which was largely funded by partnering with Citizens Energy to run the city’s water and wastewater operations
  •  Bike lanes and trails that have helped enhance residents’ quality of life
  • Indianapolis was previously named Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber in 1995.

Adds Indiana Chamber Chairman Mike Wells of REI Real Estate Services: "The Indianapolis business climate has proven welcoming to a broad audience. The new entities are exciting additions to a business lineup that features outstanding companies that have called Indianapolis home for many, many years."

The 2012 Community of the Year award will be presented to Mayor Ballard during the Indiana Chamber’s 23rd Annual Awards Dinner on November 1 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.The 2012 Business Leader of the Year and Government Leader of the Year recipients will be announced at that time.

More than 1,200 business, political and community leaders are expected to attend. Legendary journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward will take the stage as the feature presentation, discussing the Nixon presidency, politics and journalism with "Inside the White House: From Nixon to Obama." Tables of 10 and individual tickets are available for the reception (5 p.m. EST) and dinner (6:30 p.m. EST). Reservations can be made at (800) 824-6885 or at www.indianachamber.com/specialevents.

Media interested in covering the event should contact Rebecca Patrick at (317) 264-6897.

Past Community of the Year recipients:

2011: Kokomo
2010: Terre Haute
2009: Valparaiso
2008: Noblesville
2007: Anderson
2006: Evansville
2005: LaPorte
2004: Muncie
2003: Warsaw
2002: Marion
2001: Greater Lafayette
2000: Jeffersonville
1999: Fort Wayne
1998: Rochester
1997: Batesville
1996: Elkhart
1995: Indianapolis
1994: Kendallville
1993: St. Joseph County
1992: Columbus
1991: Muncie
1990: Bluffton

Wellness, Smoking Cessation Gain Momentum

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offers insights on the Wellness Council of Indiana, which has grown 400% since it became part of the Indiana Chamber in 2011. The council is now leading a smoking cessation program aimed at helping employers institute smoke-free policies and individuals break the costly and deadly habit.

Join Us at the Speedway!

Question: What beats a free day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May during the middle of the work week?

Answer: A free day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May during the middle of the work week with a free lunch.

The Indiana Chamber’s Lunch with Brinegar roadshow program makes its first stop of the year at the IMS on Wednesday, May 16. Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar will provide an overview of this year’s Indiana General Assembly, an update on membership benefits and insight into this year’s elections. The event will also provide you with a great opportunity to network with other members. The lunch takes place from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.  After the program, you will have access to Gasoline Alley and the IMS grounds to enjoy the day.

The event takes place in the muddy snake pit, so dress accordingly. And, sorry, Jim Nabors will not be singing at this event because he refused Kevin’s offer to sing "Back Home Again" in Indiana as a duet. (Yes, you will be forced to drink milk at the lunch program.)

Also, the only “new track record” we’ll experience is my numerous failing attempts to make as many bad business/Indy 500 jokes as possible during my five minute presentation. But we hope you will join us to learn more about your membership and to enjoy one of the greatest sporting venues in the world!

Members may attend the event at no cost; please RSVP to Lauren Creamer at lcreamer@indianachamber.com. The fee for non-members is $50.

Brinegar: Focus Shines on Right-to-Work

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Chamber President Kevin Brinegar explains how passing a right-to-work law will help enhance Indiana’s economy by attracting many new companies that currently won’t consider the state, according to site selection agencies. He also lays out the facts about right-to-work, noting how it does nothing to prevent unions from organizing; it just means workers won’t be forced to join to keep their jobs.  

Prejudiced Push Poll Results Fail to Reflect Reality

The following is a statement we released this afternoon:

A new poll released today by the Indiana State AFL-CIO is a biased attempt to misrepresent strong public support for right-to-work among Indiana voters.

“This is a biased push poll (worded to elicit a certain response), not a fair or objective measure of support for right-to-work,” asserts Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar. “This is comparable to the political poll, for example, that asks ‘if you knew Congressperson X cheated on his or her spouse, would you be more or less likely to vote for him or her?’”

AFL-CIO survey respondents were told that right-to-work would “result in many fewer Indiana workers having union representation” prior to being asked their opinion on the issue.  In contrast, the scientific polling conducted for the Indiana Chamber since 2005 has posed this question: “A right-to-work law says that a worker cannot be required to join a labor union or pay dues in order to get or keep a job. Do you favor or oppose a right-to-work law for Indiana?”

“We’ve scientifically polled this issue statewide five times over the past six years with a fair and objective question and found overwhelming overall support for right-to-work, ranging from 65% to 77%,” Brinegar adds. “In the most recent poll, that support was strong no matter the person’s party identification.”

May 2011 Indiana statewide voter poll question on right-to-work:

  • Democrats: 48% favor, 42% oppose
  • Republicans: 78% favor, 15% oppose
  • Independents: 68% favor, 22% oppose

“Creating jobs and economic growth must be Indiana’s top priority,” Brinegar says.  “Passing a right-to-work law will clearly open the door to the many job-creating companies that won’t even look at Indiana today and provide individual workers with the freedom of choice to determine whether or not they wish to belong to a union.”

Brinegar Touts Northwest Indiana Strengths in Merrillville

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar visited the beautiful Centier Centre in Merrillville Wednesday to discuss economic conditions in Northwest Indiana. Ryan McCormick of the popular web site ValpoLife.com writes:

"I think the position that [Northwest Indiana] is in is comparatively stronger financially and that the quality of the workforce is stronger as well," said Brinegar.

Indiana has the highest number of manufacturing employees out of any state and a large number of them are right here in our own region. Brinegar also shared about Economic Vision 2010, which was created in 2000 in order to set a number of goals or drivers Indiana should be shooting for. "Tremendous success", as noted by Brinegar, has been seen through this initiative thanks to the help of the Chamber and its coalition partners. The notable advancements have been the historic 2002 tax restructuring, improved education standards and 2003 economic development initiatives.

"It’s really a quality of life issue," comments Brinegar. "[Because of the completed initiatives], we are more competitive and are a better place for jobs in Indiana."

A similar document will soon be revealed for goals and initiatives to be met in 2025. Its expected completion is by the summer of 2011.