How 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.