Many Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities Remain in Budget Bill

The House Republicans’ budget priorities were recently announced, as HB 1001 goes from the Governor’s initial budget priorities to more in-depth House consideration. The Chamber was glad to see several technology and innovation priorities in the bill including:

  • Makes the Venture Capital Tax Credit transferrable to people who don’t have Indiana tax liability. It also removes the 2021 expiration date of the tax credit, which helps enhance certainty
  • Several parts of the $1 billion over 10 years for innovation and entrepreneurship plan:
    • It caps the amount of the Next Level Trust Fund that can be invested in Indiana businesses to 50% of that $500 million fund. It still appoints a board of trustees to oversee the investment policy of the fund
    • Has $20 million over the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
    • Due to budget pressure, it reduced the 21st Century Research and Development Fund by $10 million per year to $20 million per year
    • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program

We expect many changes in HB 1001 as it advances through the legislature. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill and why they need to remain.

Road Funding Bill Now Travels to Senate

Chamber-supported HB 1002 was amended last week on the House Floor and then passed 61-36 largely along party lines and is now up for consideration by the Senate.

The floor amendment prohibits any new toll road within 75 miles of any other toll road, terminates the gas tax indexing after July 2024 and allows additional time for public comment before a significant road project begins. Earlier, changes were made to the bill to have all sales taxes collected on fuel costs to be designated for roads (currently it’s only a penny of the seven-cent tax) starting in 2018 versus a phase-in of the sales tax to roads over three years through 2021. This creates a potential general fund budget deficit of over $300 million a year that must be addressed, either through budget cuts or other identified revenue sources. Moreover, the Chamber will continue to advocate for a strong, user-fee based model to address Indiana’s $1.2 billion per year road funding gap.

Call to Action: Connect with your state senator via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

Better Data for Indiana Bill Advances

The Indiana Chamber supports HB 1470 (on management of government data), authored by Rep. David Ober.

During the second hearing last week, language was added to reframe how the MPH will be built out. Included is how data can be accessed that could make state government and agencies more transparent, how legislative services could use information from MPH for data-driven policy and various operational aspects of the MPH for information input and output. The Chamber will continue to work with Rep. Ober and the administration to ensure the MPH is as useful as possible for the executive and legislative branches of government, as well as offers strong external uses for stakeholders outside of government.

Heard by the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee; amended and passed 8-0, and now headed to the full House.

Bill to Change Net Metering for Those Investing in Wind and Solar Energy

The Senate Utilities Committee heard a full day of testimony on SB 309 on February 9 from both sides. No vote was taken and the bill will be heard again on February 16.

Most of the committee testimony was focused on net metering. Senator Hershman offered an amendment on the floor and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) indicated he will be offering additional amendments to be considered at the next hearing. The Indiana Chamber gave testimony in support of the bill, including stating: the expectations for energy needs are diverse; our concerns about net metering if we do not make a step forward; the potential for rising costs through continued litigation; and the concern of numerous parties intervening in cases which will further slow down the process and increase costs to both utilities and ratepayers.

Overall, we testified the current bill is a step in the right direction and can be used as a building block going forward.

This bill is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all of the concerns our members expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs. It has elements of competitive procurement, net metering, distributive generation and transparency of utility rates. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s historical competitive edge, given the increase in energy costs over the past decade. With that said, we will need to consider all of the amendments before ultimately taking a final position on the bill.

Real Journey Begins for Transportation Funding Bill

During a six-hour hearing before the House Roads and Transportation Committee, there were some technical changes made in the bill and the annual increase for the fuel tax was capped to no more than one cent per year. Chamber President Kevin Brinegar provided testimony that this bill was about “revenue recovery” on the lost buying power of the gas tax since it was last raised. (Read the Chamber’s full testimony.) That lost revenue, plus better fuel economy means less money for roads. The Chamber is grateful to board members Drew Coolidge with SIRVA (moving company) in Fort Wayne and John Thompson (owner of several Indiana-based businesses) who testified how better roads impact their business, their communities and Indiana. House Bill 1002 will be considered in the coming weeks by the Ways and Means Committee before the desired House floor vote.

Call to Action: Connect with your state representative via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

A Step Closer to Sales Tax Collection for Online Purchases

The Indiana Chamber supports SB 545 (Sales Tax Collection by Remote Sellers).

This bill takes an important step toward the Legislature requiring online retailers who have no physical presence in Indiana to collect Indiana sales tax from their Indiana customers when they make online purchases. Ultimately, one of two things must happen for the requirement to go into full effect. Either the U.S. Supreme Court has to determine that states are allowed to impose this requirement based on their economic activity in the state (and the nominal burden associated with it), or Congress must pass legislation to authorize states to require the online sellers to collect a state’s sales tax.

The issue is pending before both bodies and several states are passing legislation to put pressure on one of the two entities to act and resolve the issue. Senate Bill 545 is modeled after a South Dakota law that is under review by the high court. It is designed to put Indiana in the position of making the requirement effective as soon as an Indiana court declares the collection valid under federal law. So this remains legally complicated, but SB 545 is a thoughtful and sound approach.

Senator Luke Kenley has pursued this issue diligently for many years – doing everything possible to address the problem of the sales and use tax on these transactions going uncollected. He is to be commended for his pursuit in the past and for formulating this legislation. In-state brick and mortar retailers are put in an unfair position when their online competitors are not required to collect and remit Indiana’s sales tax (as they are), effectively giving the “remote sellers” a 7% price advantage. Additionally, Indiana’s sales tax base is diminished each year as the online sales market continues to grow at rapid rates. What’s more, this is not a new tax since purchasers are already legally obligated to report their online purchases and pay the “use” tax when they file their income tax returns. But the reality is very few people comply with this law.

The Chamber supported the bill in committee this week and, in fact, has been working along with Sen. Kenley for years to achieve, by some means, state authorization for collecting these unpaid taxes. The objective is set forth in our Indiana Vision 2025 economic plan and we just might, after years of complications, be getting closer to obtaining this goal.

Get Your Motor Running for Transportation Funding

The long-awaited road funding bill (HB 1002, authored by Rep. Ed Soliday) arrived during the first week of session. It addresses the structural deficit of $1.2 billion per year for Indiana roads. The bill includes many good things that the Chamber supports; it is user-fee based and data-driven. While the bill will have changes during the next four months, we will work to support its basic concepts. The state’s situation: Over the years, technology (that led to better gas mileage) and inflation have combined to erode Indiana’s road maintenance dollars. Also, the last time the gas tax saw an increase was 2003. There will be a major hearing on this bill by the Roads and Transportation Committee on January 25 and the Chamber will be there to formally advocate its full support.

HB 1002 provides for a one-time fuel tax rate increase of 10 cents per gallon on gasoline  currently $0.18), special fuel tax (currently $0.16) and motor carrier surcharge tax (currently $0.11.) It also does the following:

  • Provides for an annual rate increase in fuel tax rates based on an annual index factor
  • Increases alternative fuel decal fees by 50%
  • Establishes a $15 transportation infrastructure improvement fee that applies to all motor vehicle registrations
  • Requires a person who registers an electric vehicle to pay a supplemental registration fee of $150 with an increase every five years based on an index factor
  • Provides that the gasoline use tax is distributed to highway funds over a phase-in period
  • Repeals restrictions on when a tolling project can be undertaken
  • Requires the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to seek a Federal Highway Administration waiver to toll interstate highways
  • Permits INDOT to approve certain railroad crossing projects and authorizes the Indiana Finance Authority to finance an approved project subject to a maximum annual debt service limit of $10 million
  • Makes various changes to the transportation funding exchange program between the state and counties and municipalities

Taxes and Public Finance: A Very Early Look at What We Are Following

We have yet to see the complete list of bills that have been introduced, and no bills having primarily to do with tax have yet been heard in committee. But of those that are available for viewing and assigned to committee, quite a few are worthy of note. They may or may not ultimately get a hearing, so it cannot be said that they are moving. Nevertheless, these bills are ones to keep an eye on.

Two measures will undoubtedly move through to the end of session – albeit with the expected/unexpected twists and turns. House Bill 1001 on the budget currently contains the Holcomb administration’s spending proposals – that is until the Ways and Means Committee has its way with it. Accompanying it will be HB 1002, the measure for long-term transportation funding (see Mark Lawrance’s infrastructure story).

There are the usual sales tax exemption and sales tax holiday bills, which historically have not been favored by the budget makers: HB 1063, HB 1111 and SB 53. There are many dealing with property tax assessment and property tax appeals, which could get some attention: HB 1046, HB 1056, HB 1105, HB 1198, HB 1229, HB 1299, SB 292, SB 331, SB 350 and SB 415. Meanwhile, SB 449 addresses how personal property tax audits can be funded; SB 308 would take heavy equipment that is rented off the property tax rolls and puts an excise tax on the rentals; HB 1247 creates a minimum property tax fee; and SB 342 revisits tax increment financing.

On the local tax front, HB 1129 keeps up the ongoing work on local option income (LOIT) taxes while HB 1096 grants broad authority to locals to adopt food and beverage taxes.

Interestingly, and unnecessarily, HB 1160 seeks a further study of the Tax Court (on top of the review conducted by the Supreme Court just last year.) Tax attorneys will be interested in SB 440 as it gets into some procedural issues.

This is just a small sampling of what has been filed. Once bills involving tax matters begin to make their way through the committees, we will report on those that are of consequence to the business community.

Concerns Over Education Matters Bill

The Indiana Chamber opposes, in part, SB 108, which eliminates the requirement that the Department of Education must publish a model compensation plan. It also:

  • Eliminates a requirement that each school corporation shall submit its local compensation plan to the department
  • Eliminates a requirement that the department must publish the local compensation plans on the department’s web site
  • Removes requirements that the: (1) department shall report any noncompliance of a school that fails to submit its compensation plan; and (2) State Board of Education shall take appropriate action to ensure compliance
  • Makes changes to the time frame, from four to six years, in which the State Board may take over a failing school
  • Provides that a principal or superintendent, or the principal’s or superintendent’s designee, may recommend an individual to participate in the Indiana high school equivalency diploma program

The Indiana Chamber testified against the provision concerning failing school interventions. We feel strongly that the trigger threshold of State Board of Education intervention should be kept at the current rate of four years instead of the drafted language of six years. It is important to keep our schools strong and accountable for our students, and six years is simply waiting too long to act regarding an underperforming school; our students deserve better.

The bill was heard in the Senate Education Committee last Wednesday and held until this week for amendment and vote.