Walorski Pushes for New Repeal of Medical Device Tax; Messer’s Reverse Transfer Concept Amended Into Reauthorization Bill

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) has brought forth legislation to suspend the medical device tax for five years. She joined Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) in co-authoring the bill, H.R. 4617, which would delay the implementation of the 2.3% tax that was originally created through the Affordable Care Act. In 2017, Congress delayed the tax for two years, but without intervention it is set to take effect January 1, 2018.

“The job-killing medical device tax would have a devastating impact on Hoosier workers and patients across the country who depend on life-saving medical innovation,” Walorski said. “I am committed to permanently ending this burdensome tax. As we continue working toward repeal, we must protect workers and patients by preventing it from taking effect.”

Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02)

Walorski’s bill was part of a group of legislation introduced by members of the House Ways and Means Committee aimed at stopping Obamacare taxes set to take effect in 2018. The other four measures are:

• H.R. 4618, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), provides relief for two years from the tax on over-the-counter medications, expanding access and reducing health care costs by once again allowing for reimbursement under consumer-directed accounts;
• H.R. 4620, introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), provides relief in 2018 from the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) that drives up health care costs;
• H.R. 4619, introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), provides needed relief from HIT for two years for health care plans regulated by Puerto Rico; and
• H.R. 4616, introduced by Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA), delivers three years of retroactive relief and one year of prospective relief from the harmful employer mandate paired with a one-year delay of the Cadillac tax.

Earlier this year, Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) introduced legislation that encourages a more seamless transition for community college transfer students earning degrees. Messer’s proposal would make it easier for students to earn a degree through a “reverse transfer,” where students who transferred from a community college to a four-year-institution but haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree can apply those additional credits back toward an associate’s degree.

Originally titled the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017, it was recently added as an amendment to the Higher Education Re-authorization by the House Committee on Education and Workforce. The provision would streamline credit sharing between community colleges and four-year institutions so transfer students can be notified when they become eligible to receive an associate’s degree through a reverse transfer.

“An associate’s degree can make a huge difference for working Hoosiers,” Messer said. “By making it easier for transfer students to combine credits and get a degree they’ve earned, Hoosiers will have more opportunities to get good-paying jobs and succeed in today’s workforce.” This legislation was supported not only by the Indiana Chamber, but also by Ivy Tech Community College and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Summers Was Always There With a Helpful Word

When I arrived at the Indiana Chamber oh so many years ago — 15 to be exact — education issues were at the forefront. Not a major surprise there. Various K-12 and higher education topics were part of our policy communications and more in-depth BizVoice magazine stories.

After writing such articles, I would anticipate the feedback. Often, then and today, that analysis — good or bad — would not come. (It's no secret that when reporters do hear from readers about their work, it's typically because someone is upset). But I could often count on a note or comment from at least one Indiana Chamber board member at the time in Vincennes University President Phillip Summers.

Summers, who passed away earlier this week, served 21 years (1980-2001) as the leader at VU. His is credited with many initiatives, from modernizing the home campus to growing programs in Jasper and at the Aviation Technology Center in Indianapolis. During our interactions, Summers was always thoughtful and insightful.

His handwritten notes often went beyond education issues. He was very complimentary of the work being done at the time to build BizVoice into a strong Chamber publication. If we missed the mark on what we were reporting, he would let us know that too — in a constructive manner.

After learning of Summers' death, I went back to the year 2000 and his participation in one of our roundtable discussions on the then-beginnings of the community college system and its relationship to regional campuses. I'll share that article here in thanking Phil Summers for his guidance and his outstanding work in the education world.

Best wishes to his family and the Vincennes University community.


Chamber Teams on Plan Calling for Workforce Solutions

Community colleges are not lacking in attention. Indiana has a rapidly growing two-year system in Ivy Tech, which has surged the last three-plus years under the leadership of longtime Indiana automotive industry veteran Tom Snyder. President Obama has highlighted the need for additional community college graduates and certifications, including today’s White House Summit on Community Colleges.

While Snyder and an Ivy Tech student are among the attendees, the Indiana Chamber is also contributing to that effort (along with many other initiatives in higher education and workforce development). The Chamber’s Derek Redelman is one of more than 30 leaders from business, education and philanthropy that joined Business Champions, Inc. in submitting an action plan to today’s summit.

The plan outlines specific and concrete action steps employers, corporate philanthropy and community college trustees can take to build partnerships that prepare Americans for high-value jobs, expand opportunities for degrees and support entrepreneurs.

If current trends continue, our workforce will be less educated in 2020 than it is today. Among older adults – those between the ages of 55 and 64 – the United States ranks first with the highest percentage of postsecondary degree holders of all developed countries. However, among young adults aged 24 to 35, the U.S. ranks 12th.

Many of the recommendations for action stem from seven White House meetings Business Champions, Inc. facilitated earlier this year for the Workforce and Education Subcommittee of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

“It’s time to move from analyzing America’s skilled workforce problems to implementing solutions.” said Mary Gershwin, president of Business Champions, Inc. “Our workforce development problems can be solved, but business-as-usual will not work.  Leaders from community colleges, the business community and corporate philanthropy must become much more deliberate about working in partnership to build skills, degrees and entrepreneurial capacity. This brief provides a much-needed road map to results.”

Business Champions, Inc. is a national non-profit organization committed to building the skills of our workforce by mobilizing the influence of business leaders to stimulate new thinking, strengthen political will and reform systems so that more Americans earn valuable degrees and credentials after high school.

Read the action plan. Learn more about Business Champions, Inc.

Jones, Merisotis Offer Education Plan

Stan Jones, Indiana’s longtime commissioner for higher education, was the Indiana Chamber’s 2009 Government Leader of the Year (BizVoice story here). Jamie Merisotis is president of the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education. The two teamed last Friday to deliver a clear message to the Obama administration: get newly appropriated funds to community colleges that do a good job taking displaced workers, helping them earn a needed certificate in a timely manner and putting those people back in the workforce.

Inside Higher Ed has an in-depth report on their proposal. Here are some key excerpts:

While Merisotis and Jones did not set a time limit, they generally praised as models programs that take a year, maximum, to finish – quite a contrast from the two-year norm for many associate degrees – assuming students enroll full time. If anything, the model Merisotis believes community colleges around the country should emulate is a rather old idea – that of a traditional vocational school.

In a handful of states – Ohio, New York, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin – there are technical institutions separate from community colleges. In Tennessee, for instance, 13 community colleges offer associate degree programs, whereas 27 “technical centers” offer only one-year certificate programs in high-demand fields. These institutions, like for-profit trade institutions, focus on getting students a credential and getting them out out in a short period of time.

Jones: "There’s nothing wrong with directed choice. … I call it kind of back to the future. They didn’t invent this yesterday; They’ve been doing this [in Tennessee] for 20 years. Some of the rest of us kind of discovered it – that they were on the right track for 20 years. Block scheduled, cohort-based, integrated – it’s highly effective.”

Jones and Merisotis believe the government should encourage the development of short-term, quick-hit programs like this at community colleges around the country with the $2 billion Community College and Career Training Grant program, which passed as part of the health care/student loan reconciliation bill earlier this year.

Additionally, Jones and Merisotis say that Congress should extend unemployment benefits so that anyone receiving them can attend college, as long as they are enrolled full-time in a one- or two-year degree program. Finally, they suggest that the government create a new program of “education stipends” to offset the tuition and living costs of going to college, essentially making the completion of a program the “job” of the recipient. 

Tennessee Education Reform With an Indiana Flavor

The Complete College Tennessee Act is the name and the goal is a higher-functioning higher education system. And there are some Indiana connections.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signed the legislation late last month. It intends to send remediation classes to community colleges, make it easier for two-year graduates to transfer to four-year universities and increase the number of students who actually earn their degrees. Sounds similar to some of the components in the Reaching Higher plan from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

One reason may be that former Indiana Commissioner Stan Jones, the Indiana Chamber’s 2009 Government Leader of the Year, contributed to the development of the Tennessee initiative. Jones now heads a Washington, D.C. nonprofit focused on helping states improve college attainment.

Jones was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press as saying, "People are uncomfortable with change. The more they hear about it and about strategies, the more comfortable they will be."

In a Nashville Public Radio report, Gov. Bredesen focused on the workforce advantages, emphasizing that more people with degrees will bring better-paying jobs to the state. He said: 

“Look, I don’t have some number in mind. I mean, I know that we are, as I’ve said, we are well below the national averages in terms of the number of college graduates. And our rate is not sufficient to catch us up. One thing I’m very clear on is, we’re not going to compete, in the long term, with states that have much higher rates of college graduates in the kind of economy we’re going to have."

The Chamber focused on Indiana’s Reaching Higher efforts in the March-April 2008 BizVoice. In this year’s higher education issue (in the mail and available online on February 26), some of the Indiana initiatives as they related to the relationship between community colleges and regional campuses are examined in-depth.