As lawmakers this week begin the 2013 Indiana General Assembly session, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce encourages a dedicated focus on the job creation and talent enhancement (education and skills development) that are so critical to our state's economic future.
The Indiana Chamber's top legislative priorities (www.indianachamber.com/priorities) – distributed today to legislators – are highlighted by education, economic development and fiscal initiatives that will:
"While Indiana has made well-documented improvements in its business climate and financial status in the past eight years, challenges remain for legislators and the Indiana economy," says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. "The emphasis must be on job creation and helping ensure workers – both current and future – have the skills to thrive in those positions. These are the hallmarks of our organization's Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025) economic development plan."
The Indiana Chamber's session objectives – initially released at the November 19 Central Indiana Legislative Preview – specifically fall into seven public policy areas: economic development, education, energy and the environment, health care, labor relations, local government and taxation.
Brinegar on education goals: "Our new governor and legislative leaders remain committed to charter school expansion, school choice and merit pay for teachers. Any attempts to roll back these laws must be defeated.
"People from both sides of the aisle agree there is critical need for improved preschool opportunities, especially for low-income children.
"Having educated young people who become skilled workers is the number one factor in determining the future success of our state's economy and the prosperity of Hoosiers."
Despite earlier incorrect reports, the Indiana Chamber does not have a 2013 priority of prohibiting political contributions and union dues from being deducted from teachers' paychecks. The organization does have a longstanding policy position that opposes taxpayer-funded government entities being involved with the collection and remittance of political contributions and union dues.
Brinegar on key workplace initiatives: "There is much more that can and should be done to limit the amount of fraud in unemployment collection. Putting that safety guard in place will take some of the burden off the system and give greater incentive to some individuals to find work.
"Meanwhile, business investments in machinery and technology are the engine of innovation and competitiveness, and therefore shouldn't be taxed. It's important we begin efforts now to eliminate this tax burden.
"We are also going to make a push to bring back the wellness tax credit. Wellness programs can increase attendance, boost morale and productivity. They are win-wins for all concerned and can positively impact health care coverage costs and employee health."
Brinegar on the state budget: "We won't be able to do it all and there is never enough money to go around. We have to set aside funds for federal health care obligations; that will be significant. It is estimated that 100,000 more Hoosiers are expected to be enrolled in Indiana's Medicaid program. So the challenge for the General Assembly will be to determine where fiscal priorities will fall after that.
"You have legislators from both sides of the aisle wanting to restore K-12 education funding that was trimmed in recent lean years. Add to that a new governor with naturally his own fiscal agenda; the same goes for legislative leaders, including the new House Ways and Means Committee chairman Tim Brown.
"The budget debate will take center stage immediately and likely won't be resolved until April."
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