Chamber’s Final Policy Letter: Invest in Tech Sector, Expand Quality of Place Efforts

kbbtb4In our fourth and final letter to the major party gubernatorial candidates, the Indiana Chamber calls for additional investment in innovation and entrepreneurs, and addressing the economic divide within the state.

The organization’s six-week Beyond the Bicentennial campaign (going beyond the state’s first 200 years) has focused on the “most potentially impactful public policies to ensure Indiana doesn’t become complacent and continues to push for progress in needed areas.” The blueprint for the campaign comes from the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, introduced in 2012, and the four economic drivers within the plan. Dynamic and Creative Culture is that fourth driver.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says continuing efforts to enhance Indiana’s business climate will revolve around “quality of place” aspects. That includes changing the inaccurate global perception that Indiana is not a welcoming place by expanding civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

97867199“We would hope this basic guarantee for Hoosier citizens would be followed by a moratorium on social issues, so we can, collectively, focus on the important economic and job-related challenges that are facing our state,” Brinegar asserts.

Those challenges include enhancing the environment for entrepreneurial and start-up businesses, as well as supporting rural areas of the state that are struggling to keep up with attracting jobs and employees. An increased focus on the technology sector and more opportunities for venture capital funding are also needed.

“Indiana is highly regarded for our business climate, and that is something that the state, Indiana Chamber and others have worked tirelessly for,” Brinegar continues. “But we cannot miss out on the great opportunity to make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity, and we must do more to lift up the rural areas, supporting them with the tools and assistance to be able to be competitive.”

The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, formed this summer and managed by the Indiana Chamber, will lend a unified voice to that area and push for policies at the Statehouse. Those policies, notes Brinegar, are to be announced at a mid-December event.

The previous letters of the Beyond the Bicentennial campaign focus on the Indiana Vision 2025 drivers. Each one of those areas also impacts the state’s ability to possess a Dynamic and Creative Culture.

The first letter, on Outstanding Talent, highlighted the need for expansion of the pre-kindergarten pilot program and additional resources for job training. The second letter, on Attractive Business Climate, called for an increase in the cigarette tax and increasing the legal smoking age to 21; additionally, continued emphasis on removing the burdensome business personal property tax was noted. The third letter, on Superior Infrastructure, called for common sense measures to provide sustainable long-term road funding, diversify Indiana’s energy mix and put a statewide water resources plan into place.

All four installments are online at www.indianachamber.com/letters.

Beyond the Bicentennial: Our Letter on Infrastructure, Energy and Telecommunications

The following is the third in our series of Beyond the Bicentennial letters, addressed to gubernatorial candidates. Read them all at www.indianachamber.com/letters.

Dear Mr. Gregg and Lt. Gov. Holcomb:

For Indiana to be the state we all want it to be – one that inspires business location and expansion, brings good-paying jobs to Hoosiers and allows for a high quality of life – a solid infrastructure framework must be in place that reflects both present conditions and is prepared for future developments.

The Superior Infrastructure economic driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan champions that belief, with goals regarding transportation, energy, water and telecommunications – all things sometimes taken for granted but inherently critical to running a business and enjoying the comforts of daily life.

Reliable roads and bridges doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for (especially for the Crossroads of America), yet it takes significant investment to keep them functioning, make enhancements and build anew. Frankly, our state has not done enough in recent years and has thus fallen behind.

In 2016, the state Legislature opted to provide short-term funding with a task force set up for the next phase. We all should know at this point – based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state – that what Indiana desperately needs is a long-term, sustainable, strategic policy plan. One that lasts decades, not a few years or election cycles. And above all, it must be based on the principles that enough revenue is raised to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and that every user pays their fair share.

There are a number of strategies that should be on the table – any or all of which the Indiana Chamber could support:

  • Index fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation
  • Raise fuel excise taxes/fees
  • Charge fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax)
  • Tolling a major interstate
  • Dedicate all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund), and replace the revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole

But, realistically, how we get there matters far less than advancing to the point where we have a robust transportation fund. It’s time to finally address this in 2017 – hopefully in a bipartisan way – before it becomes a crisis.

For decades, many companies have located in Indiana because of its adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity. But now that coal – Indiana’s most plentiful energy source – has come under frequent attack by the Obama administration, affordability is starting to go out the window. And how long will it be before businesses and jobs go with it?

Unfortunately, Indiana is to some degree at the mercy of the incoming president and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, we can take additional proactive steps at the state level to combat their actions against coal.

One avenue is to focus on diversifying Indiana’s energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Development and execution of a statewide energy plan (which does not currently exist) is essential.

Turning the attention to water, we need to finish the good work that stemmed from the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 water resources study and legislation carried by Sen. Ed Charbonneau and others to develop and implement a statewide water resources plan.

We must ensure that future water resources are available – our ability to effectively compete with other states depends on it. And we are approaching the point where research and data collection should soon transition to action. Leadership must be shown by the next Governor to help spearhead the process.

While the need for water has been obvious since the beginning of time, the advent of broadband and its economic significance is a much more recent development. It wasn’t that long ago that broadband was spoken about only in terms of faster and more reliable internet entertainment. But today, and in the future, its business, medical, security and quality of life impacts are paramount.

Legislation in 2015 that created the Broadband Ready Communities Development Center assists rural locales in working through the barriers they might have to broadband investment by a provider.

But not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We must find more ways to bring the most rural parts of Indiana up to date technologically to help reverse their downward population and economic trends.

That sentiment – being more aggressive – easily could be said for all of these infrastructure components. If elected Governor, we strongly encourage you to make that shift and put a greater priority on these vital issues.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Brinegar
President and CEO
Indiana Chamber of Commerce, representing 24,000 members and investors statewide

Cook: Governors’ Races Unique, More Difficult to Handicap than Federal Races

Cook_CharlieCharlie Cook is editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine. Cook is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on American politics, and The New York Times has called him “one of the best political handicappers in the nation.”

Cook will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Dinner on February 9. (Get your tickets now!) I recently spoke with Cook for an evaluation of this very turbulent time in American politics.

Below is my final question (see his other responses about political surprises, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and America’s infatuation with presidential politics) :

Indiana is already gearing up for the 2016 gubernatorial race – a rematch from 2012. Gov. Pence has been under heat on some social issues, and lately for the state’s stance on accepting refugees. John Gregg’s supporters have seen these as benefits to their chances. What do you expect in this race, and do you think Pence could be vulnerable?

Cook: I tend to delegate governors’ races to our senior editor Jennifer Duffy, so I’m not doing deep dives into these races. But I’ll say that Indiana went through a period where Democrats were very competitive and did well – like Evan Bayh, and Obama carried it in 2008.

But in 2012, Indiana wasn’t even in the top 10 to 12 competitive races presidentially. While governors’ races tend to be more independent of national politics and less straight party than Senate and House races, I think Indiana has reverted more to type and back into the pretty Republican column. It doesn’t mean a Republican governor is unbeatable and a race can get relatively close, but for a Democrat to get over the finish line, that’s awfully hard in Indiana.

It’s one thing to cover Senate and House races from Washington, but governors’ races have their own unique sets of issues and rhythms, so it’s hard for anyone from out of state to understand it.

Chamber Poll: Senate Race Tied, Pence Has Advantage in Gov. Race

Richard Mourdock (R) and Joe Donnelly (D) are in a statistical dead heat for the open U.S. Senate seat, with 17% of voters in that race still undecided, according to a new statewide poll released today by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

By a 41% to 39% margin (within the survey’s margin of error), Mourdock enjoys a slight lead over Donnelly.  In addition to the 17% of respondents who are undecided, 3% support Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning.

In the election for Indiana Governor, Mike Pence (R) holds a commanding 50% to 32% lead over John Gregg (D), with Libertarian Rupert Boneham supported by 3%.  In that race, 15% of respondents are still undecided.

The scientific public opinion poll of 600 registered voters statewide was conducted by Market Research Insight from August 6-9, 2012.  The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4% and utilized live interviewer telephone surveys to maximize accuracy. Dr. Verne Kennedy, senior analyst for Market Research Insight, served as project director for the poll. Kennedy has conducted more than 200 public opinion surveys in Indiana over the past two decades.

When poll respondents were asked to identify their political affiliations, results were 46% Republican and 38% Democrat, with 16% identifying as independents. Mourdock and Donnelly achieve similar support levels among their respective party voters, but 41% of self-identified independent voters are still undecided.

“As typical, both Democrats and Republicans are relatively polarized, favoring the candidate for their party,” Kennedy says. The 16% of Indiana voters who say they are completely independent will likely determine the outcome of the Senate race.

“Mourdock has the advantage in the election because more of the 17% of undecided voters on this race identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats,” Kennedy explains. “For instance, among those voters undecided on the U.S. Senate race, 33% indicated their support for Pence for governor compared to 6% who support Gregg in that race.”

The public opinion poll was commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its non-partisan political action program, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG). Learn more by viewing the polling report and crosstabs.

IFPI: New Legislature/Governor Will Face Temptation to Spend

An interesting report from the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, via Inside INdiana Business:

The Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute (IFPI) today released its report "Indiana’s Fiscal Condition – A Different Set of Policy Choices" that provides analysis regarding the State’s financial picture and also anticipates the challenges facing a new governor and the General Assembly in 2013.

"The new governor and legislators still will certainly have a tough time balancing the budget, but this time it will be in the form of resisting temptation to spend instead of identifying ways to cut expenses," said John Ketzenberger, president of the IFPI. "There will likely be pent-up demand among many constituents for new or additional spending and it is harder for policymakers to say no to them when there are surplus funds."

The report previews the unique set of circumstances facing the state as it enters a transition phase after Nov. 6 when, for the first time in eight years, the state will have a new governor. It’s likely, too, that nearly 40 percent of the members of the General Assembly will be entering their first or second terms, a remarkable period of turnover for the legislative body. Just days after taking office the new governor and the remade Legislature will begin the work of assembling the state’s next two-year budget. Add the fact there will be a new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and this will be a most interesting session from a fiscal perspective.

Among the questions likely to be considered in the 2013 General Assembly session are:

  • How will any new spending affect the state’s surpluses? Will these expenditures be one-time expenses, such as capital projects, that reduce the overall surplus, or will they be ongoing expenses, such as education, that will affect the structural balance?
  • Will surplus funds be used to further reduce taxes?
  • Should the state undertake plans to reform how it funds the Teachers Retirement Fund?

These questions and others also are affected by the sluggish economic recovery and concerns that another recession would create renewed havoc on tax revenue. Indiana’s increased reliance on sales and income taxes to pay for education, especially, makes it vulnerable to economic downturns that would make additional spending moot. The new policymakers will have to carefully consider these economic factors as they consider the state’s fiscal future.

The full report can be found on the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute Web site – www.indianafiscal.org