Chamber on Federal Approval of HIP 2.0 to Satisfy ACA Requirement

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services giving the green light to the Healthy Indiana Plan expansion (HIP 2.0), which is in lieu of traditional Medicaid expansion required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We are very pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) appreciated Indiana’s unique brand of addressing the needs of our uninsured population and recognized HIP 2.0 as the best option for Indiana to expand health care coverage. The Indiana Chamber had reviewed HIP 2.0 and urged CMS to approve it.

“HIP provides reimbursement to health care providers at Medicare rates. Otherwise, health care providers recover such losses by increasing prices for private sector employers and their employees through cost shifting. Any attempt to lessen that cost shift is welcome.

“What’s more, the approval of HIP 2.0 will provide health care coverage for tens of thousands of additional Hoosiers and bring billions of dollars into Indiana’s economy.

“We applaud Gov. Pence and his administration for recognizing that HIP 2.0 was the best course for the state and for staying firm in that belief.”

Regional Power: New Initiative to Help Leverage Core Cities for Regional Growth

IGov. Mike Pence recently allocated a total of $84 million in the 2016-17 budgets to help fund the Regional Cities Initiative. Led by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the plan will take what the organization learned by consulting 11 economically successful cities of varying sizes in the U.S. to help Indiana’s regions develop their own approaches to increasing economic growth.

While the state is helping, each region will be allowed to autonomously craft its own approach — and define what areas each region encompasses, for that matter.

I had the privilege of writing about this innovative concept in our latest BizVoice magazine. State officials hope this will help Indiana’s cities and nearby rural areas thrive by enhancing many factors, most notably “quality of place.”

Legislative Testimony: Employment for Non-Union Teachers

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of Senate Bill 302 – Employment Contracts for Non-Union Teachers, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) and Sen. Jim Smith (R-Charlestown).

The Indiana Chamber has long supported similar legislation allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to join their union. And as such, those that choose NOT to join their respective union for whatever reason should have the opportunity to negotiate their contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement that was set forth by that union – just as any other employee in the state might be able to do.

We feel that this legislation empowers both the employer and the employee to negotiate a contract that works best for BOTH parties.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

100th Edition of BizVoice is Now Available!

Our 100th, and most comprehensive edition of BizVoice is now available. You can view the entire magazine online, as we investigate Indiana’s economy — as well as the rural/urban divide and workforce challenges. We appreciate all the positive feedback we’ve already received from readers about this issue.

Legislative Session Begins; State Budget Will Dominate

statehouse picHow will the money be prioritized? That’s the overriding question as lawmakers return to the Indiana General Assembly today to start work on a new two-year state budget.

The Indiana Chamber will be pushing for substantially more dollars for an expanded education-based preschool program for low-income families.

Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes great sense. The current five-county preschool pilot program is inadequate. Indiana has too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. The need is further underscored by the 1,800 applicants for the 450 slots in the pilot program.

The Indiana Chamber will also will be advocating for the state budget to include funding for workforce training with increased designations for high wage career areas, like those in science, technology, engineering and math.

In other education matters, the Indiana Chamber has a longstanding policy of making the state superintendent of public instruction an appointed position and will be seeking to start that on course to becoming reality.

While the political challenges are obvious, we are encouraged that legislative leaders recognize that something has to change. At a minimum, there is consensus for some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The Governor’s proposal of letting the State Board of Education elect its own chair is a concept the Indiana Chamber can endorse and would be a good starting point if making the superintendent an appointed position is unable to prevail this session.

In the tax arena, there appears to be strong interest among the General Assembly to provide relief to small business personal property tax filers. Indeed, the Commission on Business Taxation has voiced its support for getting rid of the tax for these users. And that’s what the Indiana Chamber wants to see happen.

The current process is time-consuming and ineffective. All sides would come out ahead with a small business exemption. Much effort is spent by small businesses and their local governments on these returns. And for what? The tax liability often averages between only $10 and $50 per small business. In total, these returns come to a mere 1% of the overall business personal property tax collected.

Read about the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities as well as additional areas of focus for the 2015 legislative session.

On Tap in ’15: Road Funding, Sunday Alcohol Sales and 21st Century Fund

Republican supermajorities and the biennial budget will be the context for all issues during the 2015 Indiana General Assembly, as a two-year budget must be passed and any caucus with 71 members (e.g., House Republicans) inevitably will have its internal disagreements. But, in the areas of economic development and infrastructure, another contextual factor will be a major road funding study by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) due in summer 2015 – after the Legislature has adjourned.

This INDOT study will examine existing fuel excise taxes, their future revenue potential and alternative funding mechanisms and revenue streams, such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or tolling. The study will provide a tool to address an acknowledged $750 million annual funding gap between current revenues and identified maintenance needs, let alone any new projects (such as third lanes on congested portions of Indiana interstates).

Legislative leadership and fiscal and transportation policy experts within the General Assembly seem content to await the results of the INDOT study before pursuing any significant changes to the way Indiana funds its roads, bridges and highways. Nevertheless, in the 2015 session we expect issues such as fees for electric or alternative-fuel vehicles to be addressed; examination of using more revenue from the 7% sales tax on gasoline for the state’s highway fund; and a discussion of indexing fuel taxes for inflation.

The INDOT study follows a report by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure identifying a set of priority projects and laying out a long-term vision for surface transportation infrastructure across Indiana. This report includes recommendations for waterborne, air and rail commerce that may be taken up by the General Assembly, including the creation of dedicated funds for these important modes of transportation.

Likewise, while the final segment of Interstate 69 has yet to undergo regulatory review and be announced, current law prevents it from running through Perry Township in Marion County as an option; we expect legislation to remove that prohibition to be introduced. We also expect investment in next-generation telecommunications infrastructure to be addressed through legislation that streamlines zoning and regulatory approvals, seeking to make them less cumbersome and more consistent across different political jurisdictions within the state.

In the area of economic development, many items will be discussed. Along with continued reform of Indiana’s business personal property tax, other anticipated issues include: examination of tax increment financing (TIF) districts; repealing Indiana’s ban on the Sunday sales of alcohol; increasing production limits on craft breweries; renewal and reform of the state’s 21st Century Fund; film production incentives; and review of both the existing patent-derived income tax exemption and the state’s venture capital tax credit.

Indeed, we expect a major thrust for fiscal leaders this session to be a re-examination of many of the state’s existing economic development programs and tax provisions, as well as discussion of a new Regional Cities Initiative by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the Pence administration.

Given mixed economic signals and the continued emphasis on job creation, we anticipate it will be a very busy session.

Pence’s Education Agenda to Take Center Stage — Should Include More Investment in Preschool

The Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee recently voted to support Governor Pence’s education agenda in principle. The agenda represents an important first step in increasing the focus in Indiana’s K-12 education system to our state’s young people and allowing them to prosper through high-performing teachers and schools.

The list below represents the Governor’s education goals:

  • Increase the base funding per pupil
  • Build on the successful performance funding in the last budget
  • Support efforts by the Commission for Higher Education to expand the performance-based model of funding for universities
  • Allow schools to choose to become “Freedom to Teach Schools – whereby they can improve educational performance by providing more flexibility to superintendents, principals and teachers by easing laws, policies and regulations through waivers granted by the State Board of Education
  • Adjust funding for public charter schools that will allow more communities to offer more choices for families and their kids, and attract more investment for education innovation in Indiana
  • Improve Indiana’s school choice program by lifting the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers and support efforts to raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program
  • Work with legislators to act on the State Board of Education’s recommendations to develop a new, strategic approach to turning around failing schools
  • Increase the amount of money, public and private, to give students more career and technical education opportunities
  • Change how the state funds career and technical education courses, basing funding on performance and relevance instead of enrollment alone
  • Give the State Board of Education authority to elect its own chair

The last bullet item would be a good step if the longstanding Chamber priority of making the state superintendent an appointed position is not enacted. There needs to be, at a minimum, some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.

The one area where the Indiana Chamber differs with the Governor’s education agenda is on preschool; he is seeking $10 million a year in this next budget to fund pre-K scholarships for the five pre-K pilot counties.

The Chamber believes the pilot program is not adequate. Indiana has large numbers of children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn. This ultimately impacts all Hoosier students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

The state needs to provide robust funding that will help all low-income parents access education–based preschool programs. Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makes sense, like in statewide preschool.

Work Share Program Needed in Indiana

Right now, state lawmakers and their staff are drafting bills for introduction and molding strategies for the opening of the Indiana General Assembly only three weeks away. One of the most important things they can do is to enact a work share program for the state.

Work Share, or short-term compensation as it is sometimes called, is a voluntary and cost equivalent alternative to traditional unemployment benefits.

In lieu of laying off a number of employees during an economic downturn, an employer elects to retain those employees and reduce the hours of employees of a particular group or department. Those employees are then permitted to draw a partial unemployment compensation benefit based upon the hours reduced.

Employers are able to maintain a skilled and stable workforce while employees are able to keep their jobs and benefits instead of facing unemployment and economic ruin. The state wins by reducing the number of job losses. Taxpayers win in keeping jobs in place with no net increase in unemployment insurance costs.

Work share is an innovative, win-win program now in place in 26 states, but not yet in Indiana. State legislators need to hear from employers and citizens alike right now to urge them to seriously consider and enact a work share program in the next few months.

Please take a moment to send a message to your own state legislators urging them to move forward and establish a work share program in 2015. Simply visit the Indiana Chamber’s online grassroots center to send an email message to your legislators.

 

Preschool Critical for Early Childhood Development — Take Action

POne of the most important steps Indiana can take to improve education and eliminate the achievement gap for low-income and disadvantaged children is to expand publicly-funded preschool opportunities.

Every year, thousands of disadvantaged children arrive in kindergarten classrooms woefully unprepared to learn. Schools struggle to help these kids catch up, but so many fall behind and a destructive cycle of frustration and failure takes stubborn hold of their educational lives. The educational and social costs of student failures, dropouts and being ill-prepared for a career are staggering.

Less than a quarter of Indiana children attend preschool and about one in seven don’t even attend school until the first grade – one of the lowest early education rates in the nation. Only eight states fail to provide at least partial state funding for educational preschool programs. Indiana would be the ninth state but for a very small pilot program created just months ago.

If we want students to graduate high school and be college and career ready, that means starting these students along the proper education road as soon as possible.

Please take a moment to send an email message to your state legislators to support creation of a statewide preschool program. Legislative leaders of both parties have expressed strong support, but they need to know business leaders care. This is a budget-making year in the Indiana General Assembly. Now is the time to act to make an investment in early childhood education in this state.

Eliminating educational achievement gaps – starting with preschool and especially for disadvantaged populations – is one of the goals in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan.