Senate Needs to Hear from You on Top Issue

36601064Highways and bridges are easily taken for granted. They only come to mind for most of us when something goes wrong: A car hits a large pothole or there is an inconvenient road closure. But if you look around, the inevitable aging of our infrastructure system is happening.

There are three legislative proposals to address a $1 billion a year maintenance shortfall in funding for roads and bridges. Only one, HB 1001, helps meet long-term needs.

Yes, it will cost the average driver $25 more a year in gasoline taxes. But we are all spending much more than that (an average of $366 per year) on automobile repairs due to poor quality roads.

Senators are reluctant to increase taxes in an election year. Employers and voters, however, want a long-term solution. It’s too important to our economy and the time to act is NOW.

Please email your state senator urging passage of HB 1001 and long-term road funding.

Learn more: Read the write-up on the HB 1001 committee hearing and this one-pager which outlines additional infrastructure facts.

Paving the Way for Good Roads

PollQuestion

We’ve got a new poll question (top right) asking about a strategy to pay for long-term infrastructure funding. The current House Republican plan calls for a modest gasoline tax increase and higher cigarette taxes (that would go toward Medicaid spending, with sales tax funds currently used in that area shifting to transportation).

More details on the legislation: HB 1001

The most recent poll asked for your top legislative priority. Civil rights expansion (36%) topped the list, followed by increased transportation funding (28%) and education testing reform (16%).

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 www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

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

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.”

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.

Entrepreneur.com 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.

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.”

Help Get I-69 Into National Freight Network

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently seeking comments on the Primary Freight Network and National Freight Network designations. The Indiana Chamber believes that I-69 should be included as part of the National Freight Network and is asking DOT to support this effort.

As part of the National Freight Network designation, DOT has the opportunity to identify an additional 3,000 miles of highways that are critical to the future efficient movement of goods; this represents a strategic opportunity for the nation to enhance its freight transportation network.

A national priority over the past 20 years, I-69’s significance as a major freight route will increase as states along the corridor continue making progress toward its completion.

I-69 provides the most direct interstate access to principle international border crossings between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as multiple Gulf Coast ports; the volume of traffic on I-69 is anticipated to dramatically rise as the interstate progresses. For all these reasons, I-69 should be included in the Primary Freight Network.

We urge you to show your support for including I-69 as part of the Primary Freight Network by signing this petition.

Throwback Thursday: Back in the Winter of ’59

Today's venture back in the annals features a 1959 collection of research studies, titled "Spotlight on Legislative Issues," which was prepared by the Chamber and provided to state legislators of the day.

I'll list some of the interesting topics du jour, though one observation is that society was still working to define — and regulate — the woman's role in the workplace during that time. Debates centered around the merits of equal pay and how to regulate their hours.

It's also interesting to read that the Chamber was waging the battle for more efficient local government spending back then, as it's no secret we're no fans of the current township structure. One paragraph reads:

"There appears to be no assurance that the local government finance problem will correct itself in the immediate future if present practices and laws are unchanged. The continuing and growing desire of people to 'live out,' the construction of community shopping centers away from downtown areas, the rapid improvement in highway transportation and movement of traffic, and the decentralization trend in industry all point to further complications. These complications are the result of the shifting from one local government unit to another of responsibility  for administration and financing of specific governmental services while the taxable property which normally might be expected to bear a part of the cost of these services is in another taxing unit."

To paraphrase: "Something's askew here." Still how we feel today about local government.

County highway funding was also a major issue then. Legislators and the business community were considering the most efficient ways to keep Hoosiers moving:

"Need for improvement in the administration of county highways in Indiana will be one of the major problems confronting the 1959 Legislature. The importance of this issue cannot be discounted when it is realized that state-collected highway tax funds amounting to $40 million will be expended by the counties this year. Rural residents who use county roads as 'farm to market' or 'job to home' routes know and appreciate the fact that safer and more durable county roads are needed. County roads constitute approximately 77 per cent of the road and street milage in Indiana. This rural road milage is highly essential to the welfare of a large segment of the state's population."

Road Funding Day Organizers Hope to Pave Way for Transportation Movement

Properly funding Indiana's highway and road system is critical toward promoting a healthy infrastructure — a vital element of our state's business climate. There are a variety of related bills in the Indiana Legislature this session, though little clarity remains on how to pay for future needs. Advocates will gather at the Statehouse on February 19 to emphasize the importance of the issue . Experts will be on hand to offer talking points, answer questions and lead the effort. Details are as follows:

Schedule
9:45 a.m.   Registration
10:15 a.m.   Road Funding Legislative Briefing
11 a.m.   Depart for the Statehouse
11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Legislator Visits

Location
The Road Funding Legislative Briefing will be at the Build Indiana Council office located at One North Capitol Avenue, Suite 1005 in downtown Indianapolis. (This is just across the street from the Indiana Statehouse.)

Registration
While registration is not required for participation in Road Funding Day, it would be helpful for planning purposes. Also, if you pre-register, we will be able to notify you should the schedule change for any reason. There is no registration fee. For free online registration, please visit www.roadfundingday.eventbrite.com.