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Indiana Chamber releases top legislative priorities

Statement as issued Monday by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce:

November 19, 2012 (INDIANAPOLIS) — ­­Protecting recent K-12 education laws and enacting targeted pre-school initiatives are among the top legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in 2013. Further improving the state’s unemployment insurance system­­­ and reinstating the wellness tax credit for businesses that start such workplace programs are also among the organization’s key goals.

“Governor-elect Pence and legislative leaders remain committed to charter school expansion, school choice, merit pay for teachers and teacher collective bargaining. However, with a new state superintendent of public instruction, we expect efforts to roll back these laws,” reasons Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

“There also will be proposals to expand various components of these reforms, which are the most significant enhancements to the state’s education system in more than 20 years. We need to make sure these laws stay intact.”

On the workplace front, addressing unemployment insurance and business personal property tax head the list.

“There is much more that can and should be done to limit the amount of fraud in unemployment collection. Putting that safety guard in place will take some of the burden off the system and give greater incentive to some individuals to find work,” Brinegar asserts.

“Meanwhile, business investments in machinery and technology are the engine of innovation and competitiveness, and therefore shouldn’t be taxed,” he reasons. “It’s important we begin the push now to eliminate this tax burden.”

While it remains to be seen how much of Pence’s “Roadmap for Indiana” policy guide will be attempted in his first session, one idea that has already caught the Indiana Chamber’s attention is for a state-sponsored research entity called Indiana Applied Research Enterprise. Brinegar believes it would spawn new innovations and should garner serious consideration.

The priorities – 10 in total – were announced at the organization’s annual Central Indiana Legislative Preview in Indianapolis today. At the 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 2012 legislative session. The 2012 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Doug Eckerty (R-Yorktown), District #26; Sen. Earline Rogers (D-Gary), District #3; Rep. Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville), District #45; and Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D-Indianapolis), District #97.

The Indiana Chamber’s pre-session objectives fall into seven public policy areas: economic development, education, energy, health care, labor relations, local government and taxation.

Below are the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities. The complete list is also available on the Indiana Chamber web site (www.indianachamber.com).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Support establishment of new state-sponsored research institute. Governor-elect Pence, in his “Roadmap for Indiana,” outlines a new entity, Indiana Applied Research Enterprise, to accelerate commercialized innovation in our universities and life sciences companies. The Indiana Chamber believes that this idea has much merit and would spawn new innovations.

EDUCATION

Support maintaining and implementing the 2011 reforms involving charter school expansion, school choice, merit pay for teachers and teacher collective bargaining. Governor-elect Pence and legislative leaders remain committed to these reforms. Nonetheless, we expect efforts to roll them back. These laws are the most significant enhancements to the state’s education system in more than 20 years; they put the focus where it should be – on students and increasing their potential for academic achievement. The Indiana Chamber will work to keep these reforms intact.

Support the development of certain publicly-funded preschool initiatives. There is critical need for improved preschool opportunities, especially for low-income children whose families may not have the means to provide a high-quality preschool experience or to provide needed learning opportunities in the home. The Indiana Chamber supports publicly-funded preschool programs that are: focused on those families in greatest need, limited to initiatives that maintain parental choice, focused on concrete learning outcomes and integrated with reforms at the elementary school level that will maintain and build upon the gains.

Support increased focus and refinements for performance-based funding at public higher education institutions; incentivize degree completion, student persistence and STEM degrees. This is even more important during tough fiscal times.

ENERGY

Support a water policy to stabilize our economic future and effectively compete with other states. Indiana has significant water resources. A firm policy/plan is needed in order for the state to effectively manage these resources, as well as to ensure delivery of an adequate, reliable and affordable supply of water.

HEALTH CARE

Support reinstating the wellness tax credit. The Indiana Chamber supports this incentive to start a wellness program, which can increase attendance, boost morale and productivity, as well as positively impact health care coverage cost.

LABOR RELATIONS

Support improvements to state’s unemployment insurance system regarding eligibility. Benefits should not be so high as to provide a disincentive to actively seek employment. Eligibility requirements should be strengthened to provide benefits only to those who have been unemployed through no fault of their own and have a demonstrated work history. The Indiana Chamber seeks to decrease the amount of fraud in the system and make better use of limited unemployment insurance tax revenue.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Support common sense simplification and reforms to local government structures and practices. Creating the option for counties to have a single county commissioner and county councils with legislative and fiscal responsibilities is one that several Indiana counties desire. There should be incentives to reward local government efficiencies and performance in the delivery of services to taxpayers.

TAXATION

Support steps to reduce the dependence on the taxation of business machinery and equipment. This tax discourages capital investment, places a disproportionate property tax burden on businesses and puts Indiana at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states that have eliminated it or are moving to do so.

Support a prudent, structurally-balanced state budget that balances and properly prioritizes the state needs. The biennium budget always presents difficult decisions regarding the level and manner of funding Indiana’s critical needs, the appropriate rates and forms of taxation and the maintenance of adequate reserve balances.

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