See for Yourself What the Chamber is Up To

To those of you reading this blog, our BizVoice magazine and numerous other written communication efforts, thank you. To those who also want to see the latest from the Indiana Chamber, you can click on the videos tab at the bottom of each page on our web site. What will you find?

  • Commentaries from Chamber President Kevin Brinegar
  • BizVoice magazine segments featuring stories from our current issue
  • Profiles of 2008 Annual Award and Volunteer of the Year winners
  • Our special policy outreaches on local government reform (featuring former Gov. Joe Kernan) and the Letters to Our Leaders campaign

In addition, Brinegar and other Chamber issue experts appear weekly on the Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick television program during the legislative session. Inside the Statehouse segments are also available online.

Chamber Issues Statement on Governor’s Reform Agenda

Governor Mitch Daniels discussed his hopes today to further push government reform in the upcoming legislative session, with Kernan-Shepard Report architects Joe Kernan and Randall Shepard in attendance. We’ve issued a press release in response, indicating our continued support:

When the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform released its 27 recommendations one year ago (on December 11, 2007), the Indiana Chamber said, "This report places the emphasis exactly where it needs to be — on increased local government efficiency and reduced spending."

Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president, says today: "Nothing has changed. In fact, in these challenging economic times it’s more important than ever for Hoosiers to demand that the General Assembly enact the recommendations of the Kernan-Shepard Commission so that we may all benefit from high-performing local governments, and for those local units to operate as cost-efficiently as possible.

"We’ve been encouraged by the discussion and the progress over the past year. Hoosiers made their preference for better local government clear at the polls in November when they voted to move the majority of the remaining tax assessing duties from the township to the county level.

"This is not strictly a business issue. It’s putting in place a structure that allows everyone easier access to libraries and other government services, as well as helping ensure the highest levels of public safety," Brinegar concludes. 

Lacy: Hoosiers Benefit When Legislators Work Together

Our Chairman of the Board, Andre Lacy, provides convincing commentary for Inside INdiana Business outlining how true bipartisanship is necessary for successful governing.

We recommend you take a look at the column in its entirety, but here are some highlights and examples he offers:

In 1999, Indiana moved to the forefront of K-12 education standards and accountability measures. A key driver was the General Assembly working in a bipartisan fashion to create Indiana’s Education Roundtable. This group of education and business community leaders was able to come together (leaving politics at the door) to monitor and refine standards that remain highly regarded by national experts. It took additional bipartisan legislative support to make these initiatives a reality.

In 2002, the governor teamed with legislative leaders of both parties to help craft comprehensive tax reform that provided property tax relief and made Indiana much more competitive as a business location through (among other substantial changes) the elimination of the inventory tax. That started a series of legislative sessions that featured cooperation across the aisles and passage of important economic development initiatives such as telecommunications and further tax reforms. The results have been substantial new investment and thousands of new jobs.

Letters to Our Leaders: Get Along or Get Out

OK, maybe the headline is a little harsh. But the meaning cannot be downplayed.

The final installment in the Chamber’s Letters to Our Leaders campaign calls for bipartisanship. That’s a big, 14-letter word for a) work together; b) leave the politics at the door; and c) Hoosiers are tired of political games getting in the way of substantial progress.

Indiana ‘s economy is performing strongly compared to its Midwest neighbors and many others around the country. It’s almost as if that is taking place in spite of some of our government efforts. Too many potential education, workforce training and other policy improvements go by the wayside because one party doesn’t want the other taking credit.

The Chamber letter and video summary says Hoosiers have had enough. Once the election is over, put aside the party labels, do what you were "hired" to do by the voters and everyone will benefit.




Letters to Our Leaders: We’ve Come So Far on Tax Policy, But …

Overall, Indiana has a very competitive business tax climate. That is thanks to the 2002 elimination of the inventory tax (like most other states had already done) and additional measures.

Concerns, however, remain. They include:

  • Many states do not have a personal property tax on machinery and equipment. Indiana does. These taxes hinder innovation; an alternative is to tax the income and sales that are produced
  • Indiana’s corporate income tax rate of 8.5% is ninth highest in the country, a disincentive for new or expanding businesses
  • The classification system that would emerge if proposed differential property tax caps are approved

The cap argument was at center stage throughout the 2008 General Assembly, and it will return in 2009. Homeowner property tax relief was critical, but it should not come at the expense of future business development. If business property is subject to different tax treatment in the constitution, spending interests will return seeking more. The 3% business property tax cap (even higher in 2009) would be the third highest rate in the country.

The constitutional guarantee of uniform and equal assessments and taxation was a wise one. Instead of unequal caps, let’s enhance spending controls, enact the efficiencies laid out by the Kernan-Shepard Commission and improve the tax climate for all.

The latest Letters to Our Leaders installment offers the details. Read the letter (and others in the series); watch the one-minute video below; offer your comments.


Letters to Our Leaders: Focus on Wellness and Health Care Access

There are a lot of very smart people around the country trying to figure out solutions to a health care system that simply doesn’t work as well as it should. Unfortunately, they’re not having a lot of success — or maybe the challenge is just so big that we must be patient (no pun intended).

Who pays what to which provider depends on too many outside circumstances. The lack of health insurance for millions negatively impacts the entire system. Too much time and money is spent treating symptoms, not preventing the health problems in the first place. With the federal government financing nearly 70% of the country’s spending on health care, many decisions are out of the state’s control.

What can be done is focus on wellness. In Indiana, we eat too much, smoke too much and don’t exercise enough. Yes, part of the solution is individual responsibility. But businesses can play a critical role through wellness programs, health risk assessments and more. What can also be done is increase access to insurance and the preventative care that goes along with it. Reducing emergency room trips for common procedures will help bring some sanity to the financial side of the equation.

The Healthy Indiana Plan has proven to be a good start on both fronts. Let’s build on that, doing what we can at the state (and business) level. If not, health care expenditures will overwhelm our economy and our lives.

The latest Letters to Our Leaders installment offers the details. Read the letter (and others in the series); watch the one-minute video below; offer your comments.


Conexus: Indiana Chamber is Right, Privatize Lottery

Carol D’Amico of Conexus Indiana has a guest post on the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) blog today supporting our latest Letters to Our Leaders offering, which suggests privatizing the lottery to fund needed workforce development programs in the state.

D’Amico writes:

Such a new revenue source could provide the funds necessary to help move more young people into the higher education pipeline, building our future workforce, as well as addressing the critical need to retrain our incumbent workers.

Some worry that private management of the Lottery is tantamount to a further expansion of gambling. Under the legislation considered last session, at least, the private manager was specifically prohibited from expanding the menu of lottery games. It should also be noted that Hoosiers spend less on our lottery than the average American.  We rank 26th among the 41 states with lotteries in per capita spending ($118 per person).  All adjacent states rank higher in lottery spending, from $135 per person in Illinois to $195 in Michigan…new management would certainly be incentivized to market the lottery aggressively, but it’s unlikely to turn Hoosiers into a pack of gambling addicts.

Letters to Our Leaders: Today’s Workers Need Your Help

My father, not unlike many Hoosiers, toiled for 33 years on the assembly line of a General Motors auto plant. No one I know worked harder — both on the job and in the small town community efforts that he supported.

While he retired many years ago (and is still going strong at age 85), the skills he succesfully used would require some serious updating if he was still in the workforce today. That’s the challenge facing many of the state’s current workers.

The numbers can’t be repeated enough: nearly one million Hoosiers require some form of skills remediation or further education to remain competitive in today’s job market. Approximately 25,000 people are currently served through existing programs. The gap in numbers, and the dollars needed to help find a solution, are the focus in the Indiana Chamber’s Letter to Our Leaders on workforce development.

The proposal: lease the state lottery, utilize the up to $2 billion up-front payment and the annual proceeds to make this major investment in Indiana’s workers. They deserve it.

View the letter (and others in the series); watch the one-minute video below; offer your comments.



Lacy: Right-to-Work Would Benefit Workers, Taxpayers

Our Chairman of the Board, Andre Lacy, offers convincing commentary for Inside INdiana Business outlining how Right-to-Work laws would truly benefit Indiana.

We recommend you take a look at the column in its entirety, but here are some highlights:

In a 2002 study entitled “The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Economic Development,” economist William T. Wilson of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy compared Michigan’s economic performance to right-to-work states. Wilson found that during the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, RTW states created jobs nearly twice as fast as did Michigan. While poverty rates dropped dramatically during these 30 years, Michigan was one of seven states (all lacking right-to-work laws) that witnessed an increase in the percentage of residents living in poverty. Finally, the study showed that right-to-work states created 1.43 million manufacturing jobs, while non-right-to-work states lost 2.18 million manufacturing jobs during the same three decades …

There are practical reasons for Indiana to adopt a right-to-work law. First, Hoosiers agree with it. An overwhelming majority – 71 percent – favored or strongly favored right to work in a 2007 statewide survey conducted for the Chamber’s Indiana Business for Responsive Government. There is also the broader moral question of whether a Hoosier breadwinner should be forced to join and/or pay dues to a labor organization to get or keep a job.

Letters to Our Leaders: Laboring for a Solution

Automotive production in the United States is moving south. Yes, Indiana has been successful recently in attracting Honda and incorporating a Toyota expansion into the existing Subaru facility in Lafayette, but those have been exceptions rather than the rule.

Since Nissan chose Smyrna, Tennessee for a plant location in 1983, the Volunteer state and neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina have become attractive locations for BMW, Kia, Honda and others. Good transportation and a strong workforce are two of the reasons. The biggest, according to some, is that these are right-to-work (RTW) states that allow the automakers (and other major employers) to avoid union concerns.

The 22 states with RTW laws have seen dramatic increases in economic development and personal incomes compared to those lacking the RTW measures. It’s not the lone reason, of course, but one that deserves full consideration.

One of the keys to progress for any state is standing out from the others. RTW would do that for Indiana in the Midwest and on a national level.

This week’s Letter to Our Leaders has the details.