Mixed Bag With Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities in Senate Budget

The long-awaited announcement of the Senate initial version of the budget came late
last week. In it, there are several technology-related issues that were either included or dropped from the bill, as well as some funding amounts also reduced from the House version:

  • Transferability of the Venture Capital Tax Credit was deleted. The Chamber would like to see it included to increase the flow of venture capital funds for promising qualified businesses.
  • Funding of the 21 Fund (21st Century Research and Development Fund) remains at $20 million a year. The Chamber prefers $30 million a year.
  • Funding to backstop the initiation of direct flights to Europe was reinstated, although it is $4 million rather than $10 million over the two years. A good start.
  • Funding for the Management Performance Hub (MPH) was reduced to $6 million for two years, which is less than what the House reduced from the Governor’s original amount.
  • Keeps $20 million for the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Removed the Next Level Trust Fund, which would have provided investment guidelines and supervision to direct a portion of the Major Moves Trust Fund to invest in promising Indiana opportunities.
  • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program.

We will work to keep the things we like in the bill and try to restore other items that were reduced or removed as it advances through the Senate and goes to conference committee. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill.

Election a Precursor for Highway Funding?

According to a report in Congressional Quarterly Politics, Congress has been quite reluctant in the past to raise the federal gasoline tax to fund road and bridge projects. The 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax has remained the same since 1993.

But in last week’s election, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association tracked 32 ballot initiatives in which voters were asked to pay more taxes or approve bonds to fund local transportation projects. Approval came in 78% of those cases, according to the organization.

California voters approved a bond issue that could go as high as nearly $10 billion for high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A half-cent sales tax hike per $10 purchase will fund commuter train service in portions of Washington state and in Greensboro, North Carolina, a $134 million bond was approved for 70 projects, ranging from bridge repairs to bike lanes.

Association experts think the local successes may prompt Congress to reconsider its opposition as significant funding increases of some type will be needed for infrastructure needs. Others say citizens are willing to pay more locally because they see the end result of their investment, but question further allocations to Washington.

Bottom line: More money is needed and no one appears to know where it is going to come from. It certainly makes Indiana’s Major Moves, and its fully financed 10-year infrastructure plan, look even better every day.