Beyond the Bicentennial: Our Letter on Infrastructure, Energy and Telecommunications

The following is the third in our series of Beyond the Bicentennial letters, addressed to gubernatorial candidates. Read them all at

Dear Mr. Gregg and Lt. Gov. Holcomb:

For Indiana to be the state we all want it to be – one that inspires business location and expansion, brings good-paying jobs to Hoosiers and allows for a high quality of life – a solid infrastructure framework must be in place that reflects both present conditions and is prepared for future developments.

The Superior Infrastructure economic driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan champions that belief, with goals regarding transportation, energy, water and telecommunications – all things sometimes taken for granted but inherently critical to running a business and enjoying the comforts of daily life.

Reliable roads and bridges doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for (especially for the Crossroads of America), yet it takes significant investment to keep them functioning, make enhancements and build anew. Frankly, our state has not done enough in recent years and has thus fallen behind.

In 2016, the state Legislature opted to provide short-term funding with a task force set up for the next phase. We all should know at this point – based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state – that what Indiana desperately needs is a long-term, sustainable, strategic policy plan. One that lasts decades, not a few years or election cycles. And above all, it must be based on the principles that enough revenue is raised to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and that every user pays their fair share.

There are a number of strategies that should be on the table – any or all of which the Indiana Chamber could support:

  • Index fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation
  • Raise fuel excise taxes/fees
  • Charge fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax)
  • Tolling a major interstate
  • Dedicate all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund), and replace the revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole

But, realistically, how we get there matters far less than advancing to the point where we have a robust transportation fund. It’s time to finally address this in 2017 – hopefully in a bipartisan way – before it becomes a crisis.

For decades, many companies have located in Indiana because of its adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity. But now that coal – Indiana’s most plentiful energy source – has come under frequent attack by the Obama administration, affordability is starting to go out the window. And how long will it be before businesses and jobs go with it?

Unfortunately, Indiana is to some degree at the mercy of the incoming president and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, we can take additional proactive steps at the state level to combat their actions against coal.

One avenue is to focus on diversifying Indiana’s energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Development and execution of a statewide energy plan (which does not currently exist) is essential.

Turning the attention to water, we need to finish the good work that stemmed from the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 water resources study and legislation carried by Sen. Ed Charbonneau and others to develop and implement a statewide water resources plan.

We must ensure that future water resources are available – our ability to effectively compete with other states depends on it. And we are approaching the point where research and data collection should soon transition to action. Leadership must be shown by the next Governor to help spearhead the process.

While the need for water has been obvious since the beginning of time, the advent of broadband and its economic significance is a much more recent development. It wasn’t that long ago that broadband was spoken about only in terms of faster and more reliable internet entertainment. But today, and in the future, its business, medical, security and quality of life impacts are paramount.

Legislation in 2015 that created the Broadband Ready Communities Development Center assists rural locales in working through the barriers they might have to broadband investment by a provider.

But not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We must find more ways to bring the most rural parts of Indiana up to date technologically to help reverse their downward population and economic trends.

That sentiment – being more aggressive – easily could be said for all of these infrastructure components. If elected Governor, we strongly encourage you to make that shift and put a greater priority on these vital issues.


Kevin M. Brinegar
President and CEO
Indiana Chamber of Commerce, representing 24,000 members and investors statewide

U.S. Department of Labor Overtime Rule Will Hurt Businesses

7768406In 2014, President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to update and modernize rules regulating exemption of certain employees from minimum wage and overtime protection provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. DOL released regulations regarding new rules for overtime. This action drastically increases the salary threshold under which most employees would be eligible for overtime pay, from $23,660 for a full-time employee to $47,476 per year. This will affect millions of middle-wage employers across the country.

In addition to this increase in salary threshold, an automatic adjustment will occur every three years. Also, the “duties test” that determines whether or not certain employees are eligible for overtime even if they make more than the new threshold amount will continue. To be eligible for this exemption, an employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative or professional duties as outlined by DOL regulations. The change is set to go into effect on December 1 of this year. (See DOL fact sheet.)

Obviously, this has drastic implications for the employer community. According to the Washington Post, about 35% of full-time salaried employees will be eligible for time and a half when they work extra hours under the new rule. Under an already existing rule, that number was 7%. As such, employers will have less flexibility in documenting time for their workers – including flex time – or may have to cut back hours for certain employees. This can hamper employers being able to reinvest in their companies, as well as provide better benefits and growth opportunities. Small businesses will be even more impacted by this onerous rule.

The Indiana Chamber, in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber, is reaching out to the Indiana delegation in Washington, D.C. to let them know how this will impact the business community. We encourage you to participate in this call to action.

The 2016 Indiana Wage and Hour Seminar on July 28 will include a detailed discussion on the impacts on employers.

Chamber Releases Vote Scores for Legislators

leg analysisThe Indiana Chamber handed out scores today to legislators for their performance during the 2016 General Assembly. The numbers, released in the organization’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis, are based on voting records on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation. The 2016 scores ranged from 36% to 100%. 

The purpose of the Legislative Vote Analysis is to keep Hoosiers informed about what’s going on at the Indiana Statehouse and how their legislators are voting on issues vital to the state’s economic future and their own. This report makes it clear which legislators support pro-economy, pro-jobs bills and which legislators do not.

Base scores for each legislator are calculated as a percentage of votes cast in agreement with the Indiana Chamber’s position on the bills included in the Legislative Vote Analysis. Select pro-economy, pro-jobs legislation has been double-weighted to reflect its importance.

As was the case in 2015, a modest adjustment factor (positive or negative) was added to the Legislative Vote Analysis scoring model to factor in very important legislative activities outside of floor votes. These include whether a legislator sponsored/authored these important bills and whether committee chairs held hearings or killed these bills.

In addition to receiving their score, 13 legislators earned a star designation for overall leadership or their significant efforts on issues deemed of critical importance.

“These individuals went the extra mile to move our state forward in some tangible way. Some championed public policy that, while needed, was a tough sell, and others worked their caucus to get vital legislation passed,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

The majority of the bills included for examination can be traced back to the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan, released in 2012.

Legislators who score 70% or greater for the most recent four-year voting period are eligible for endorsement by the Indiana Chamber’s political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government.

Lawmakers are notified of the Indiana Chamber position and reasoning on the bills in this report through various communications during the legislative session – and prior to key votes being taken. Only floor votes for which there is a public record are used in the Legislative Vote Analysis.

Copies of the Legislative Vote Analysis report are sent to all legislators and Indiana Chamber board members, and made available online for all businesspersons, community leaders and citizens.

This marks the 32nd year the Indiana Chamber has measured state legislators’ voting performance on bills that reflect the organization’s public policy positions.

All scores and the full report are available at the Indiana Chamber’s web site at

Health Care to be Focus of Connect & Collaborate Events in 2016 (Coming to a City Near You!)

97867199Six years after the Affordable Care Act became law, employers and employees continue to be impacted, and sometimes confused, by its various rules and regulations. You can learn about new tools to answer your questions and benefit your organization as part of the 2016 Connect & Collaborate series.

The events – presented by the Indiana Chamber in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and free for Chamber members – will take place in 11 cities across the state. In addition to breakfast or lunch and networking with business leaders from your area, the health care emphasis will include these three important benefits:

  1. Advocacy: The Chamber’s longstanding role in seeking implementation of the best possible public policies at both the state and federal levels
  2. Education: Conferences, publications, the affiliated Wellness Council of Indiana and additional member services to assist companies and their workers
  3. Navigation: New options being made available this year, in conjunction with Anthem and additional partners, to help you produce cost savings while best meeting your employee needs. These products are structured for organizations of all types and sizes

Past Connect & Collaborate series have focused on workforce development, workplace wellness and energy saving guidance. Chamber Communications VP Tom Schuman, Director of Membership Brock Hesler and Anthem representatives will be featured presenters at each event.

The series begins May 4 in Carmel and concludes June 21 in Fort Wayne. Additional stops are Terre Haute, Richmond, Anderson, Lafayette, Bloomington, Evansville, Gary, Winona Lake and Elkhart. Pre-registration is required for the 90-minute programs.

Full lineup and registration. If you have additional questions, contact Nick Luchtefeld ( at (317) 264-6898.

Check Out the Chamber’s Issue Pages

Do you have a topic you're passionate about, and would like to know what the Indiana Chamber is working on in that area? We've developed some web pages highlighting key issues that will show you what we're focused on and offer some background on our public policies. See the pages below, and more information will be added weekly to these as the session progresses.

Our 2013 Top Legislative Priorities and Legislative Business Issues documents are also available to view.

Brinegar: Indiana Vision 2025 is Ambitious — and Should Be

A lot of thought has gone into developing the Indiana Vision 2025 plan. It includes more than 30 goals in four areas of focus: outstanding talent, which encompasses K-12, higher education and the workforce; an attractive business climate; a superior infrastructure; and a dynamic and innovative culture. See a PDF of the plan.

EPA Plans Could Mean Huge Energy Cost Increases

The U.S. Senate is likely to vote this week on a measure from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases as pollutants. Some argue it will be among the most important environmental votes of this decade. The Weekly Standard contends:

The regulation of greenhouses under the Clean Air Act was triggered by EPA’s determination that such gases pose a danger to human health. This is not because they actually pose any danger to human health, like real pollutants, but rather because their accumulation in the upper atmosphere could contribute to “dangerous warming” by 2050. Carbon dioxide is a ubiquitous product of all economic activity and of everything that breathes.

Giving EPA the power to regulate it is tantamount to letting it control virtually the whole economy. And unlike other pollutants, no effective, commercially practicable control technology exists. Where economic activity is found to produce too much CO2 for EPA standards, that activity will simply have to stop. Hidden deep inside thousands of pages of technocratic jargon is a fact that should focus the attention of everybody.  If not stopped this week, EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases risks an economic catastrophe.

According to some estimates, just in the next two years the new regulations could cost 1.4 million jobs and decrease U.S. business investment by 15 percent. One study estimates that GDP will be half a trillion dollars less by 2030.  Another concluded the cost of gasoline will rise by 50 percent, electricity by 50 percent, and natural gas by 75 percent over the next 20 years. Transportation costs are the primary variable in food prices – so food prices will be affected. Low income Americans, who are particularly vulnerable to spikes in energy and food prices, will be hardest hit.

Earlier in the week, we released an Action Alert stating If the EPA moves forward as it plans, dramatic increases in energy costs are just around the corner. Even the EPA admits to huge energy cost increases. It has been estimated that the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations could reduce business investment between $97 and $290 billion in 2011 and as much as $309 billion in 2014. EPA’s own records indicate that permitting provisions alone will cost applicants $125,000 and 866 hours of burden per facility.

Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pushing forward with its plans to regulate and penalize carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has admitted that regulating greenhouse gases under the Act would subject the business community to an onerous and costly process that will see costs skyrocket. The McConnell Amendment seeks to stop the EPA from moving forward with this process and allow Congress to address the issue.

Congress should pursue common-sense solutions to address greenhouse gas emissions, not to allow the EPA to charge forward with a seriously-flawed, job-killing regulatory strategy.

Luntz Described as ‘Evil Cleaver’

Here’s a recent description of pollster Frank Luntz, courtesy of a political blog: "the boyish charlatan who’s been concocting spin for conservative candidates and causes for what seems like a century now, but who still manages to look like the evil Cleaver brother."

Not exactly a Luntz fan, huh? But love him or hate him, he’s always interesting. And he returns for the Indiana Chamber’s 2011 Legislative Reception and Dinner. A few topics likely to emerge: 2012 presidential contenders, how serious is Washington about debt reduction, state legislative battles (think Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio to begin with) and more.

Here’s a BizVoice story when we had the opportunity to sit down with Luntz in 2008. I’ve heard him a few times now; can’t say I always agree with everything he has to say. But that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it.

See and hear for yourself on March 16.

Vital Unemployment Bill Passes Indiana House

The folllowing is a legislative update on HB 1450 regarding unemployment insurance:

Bill # and Title: HB 1450 – Unemployment Insurance
Author: Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington)

Summary: Establishes the weekly unemployment benefit amount as 47% of the individual’s prior average weekly wage. This is calculated by dividing an employee’s earnings during a year (regardless of how many weeks the employee has worked) by 52. Establishes the maximum weekly benefit amount at $390 (which is the current maximum). This change will not become effective until July 1, 2012. This means that people currently drawing unemployment benefits will see no change to their benefits. Places all employers into Rate Schedule E (a lower rate) for the years 2011-2020. Establishes a 13% surcharge for employers to pay into the unemployment insurance solvency fund in order to pay interest due on the outstanding balance of federal loans.

Chamber Position: Support

Status: The bill passed out of the House with 61 votes and was sent to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee for consideration.

Update/Chamber Action: In addition to working to get the bill passed in the Senate, the Indiana Chamber is also involved in researching the issue of whether bonds could be issued to pay off the loan to the federal government (a little over $2 billion was owed as of late January). Besides the possibility of getting a lower interest rate (currently the federal government is charging around 4% interest on the outstanding loan balance whereas the interest rate might fall to around 2-2.5% under a bond), if the loan was paid off then Indiana employers would not lose their federal credit toward the payment of their federal unemployment taxes. While unemployment insurance taxes will increase next year (and they must to help return the system to solvency), the Chamber-led shift to Schedule E rates will result in $2 billion in savings (over the intended new rates) for Hoosier employers over the next 10 years.