Indiana Chamber Outlines Legislative Priorities

Creating more jobs for Hoosiers by making Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state heads the list of the top 2012 legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.  Eliminating the state’s inheritance tax, protecting the education reforms of last session and implementing a statewide smoking ban are also among the group’s key goals.

"Far too often, Indiana is not in the running for business growth and expansion plans, as site selection experts across the country repeatedly emphasize that companies won’t even consider non-right-to-work states for these opportunities. And, with these opportunities come thousands of jobs – none of which are currently coming to our state," offers Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

He expects the right-to-work debate to be intense at the Statehouse, but says that should not be viewed as a deterrent to pursuing the policy – or used as an excuse to stay on the sidelines.

"The stakes are too high. With over a quarter million Hoosiers unemployed, ways to generate more jobs should be welcome and top of mind for everyone. We need to do everything possible to lower our state’s unemployment rate and improve our economic competitiveness," Brinegar stresses.

"Right-to-work is the most impactful way to tackle those two needs, plus it offers workers more freedom. Right-to-work protects employees from being forced to join a union and pay dues. It does not prohibit labor unions or collective bargaining; it lets employees decide."

The 10 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 here.

– Support the state adopting a right-to-work statute banning the practice of requiring union membership or financial support as a condition of employment.  Would remove a significant impediment to investment and job creation. Would help Indiana continue to distinguish itself from neighboring states and to build a national leadership position in economic development.

– Support protecting the 2011 reforms involving charter school expansion, school choice, merit pay for teachers and teacher collective bargaining. These new 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. We need to make sure these reforms stay intact and are executed as intended.

– Support expanding school accountability. Our system, while improving greatly under current state leadership, still offers far too many loopholes for perpetual failure.

– Oppose renewable energy mandates. Indiana already has significant renewable energy development without benefit of a mandate, which would present unreasonable costs to power consumers and utilities.

– Support ban on smoking in the workplace. Smoking is detrimental to employee health and productivity, and contributes to higher premiums for businesses providing employee health benefits.

– Oppose any health care mandates or assignment of benefits (AOB) policy. Mandates and AOB both serve to increase the cost of health care premiums for employers and their employees.

– Support work share component incorporated into state’s unemployment insurance system. Would allow employees to collect reduced wages and partial unemployment benefits – as opposed to losing their jobs; is a temporary and practical alternative to layoffs.

– Support common sense simplification and reforms to local government structures and practices. Current local government system lacks high standards against nepotism and allows for too many conflicts of interest. This, coupled with the streamlining of duties and functions as appropriate in county and township government, will result in a more effective system and better use of taxpayer dollars.

– Support elimination of the state inheritance tax. Only 1% of the state’s revenue pool comes from this tax, but the consequences are much higher. Why? This tax serves as a big deterrent for high income individuals to remain in Indiana (and spend money), or keep their assets here. It’s more beneficial for the state and its residents to remove the tax.

– Support exempting the taxation of machinery and equipment. Indiana needs to be on a level playing field with surrounding states – some of which have already made this move or are considering it now. Exempting machinery and equipment from property tax would be another strategic step in our economic development efforts.