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The Indy Region is open for business.


Already a leading advanced industry economy among major metros, Indy’s high-tech hot streak shows no signs of slowing down.  Our competitive business climate and appealing quality of life helps us best most Midwestern peers in population growth and job creation.  We’re a crossroads of global trade with a quickly-improving climate for local start-ups.

We have plenty to celebrate but no time for complacency.  The Indy Chamber’s 2018 Legislative Agenda challenges lawmakers to create an even more welcoming environment for new investment, employment and innovation here in the state’s largest region.

We need an open door to new talent, with open-minded and inclusive public policy: Indiana’s overdue for comprehensive statewide anti-discrimination laws and tougher penalties for bias crimes.  And we must push the doorway to employment open wider for veterans and ex-offenders seeking a fresh start.

We have to invest in homegrown talent, too.  We urge the General Assembly to open access to early learning for more families in financial need, expanding public funding for pre-K and implementing full-day kindergarten by age 5.  And for older students poised to enter the workforce, let’s create more college credit options for job-readiness and real-world experience.

Because an open flow of commuters and commerce across county and city borders helps us thrive as a region, we need to reform the way we distribute local tax revenues to support regional growth.  It’s also time to reform township finances, use open data to improve public service and end politically-driven redistricting to make government more effective and accountable.

Local flexibility is important for economic development, and state incentives should evolve with our economy as well: Minor policy changes to support micro-lending, clarify tax exemptions for software firms and encourage entrepreneurship and university R&D can have a major impact.  Indiana also needs tools to incentivize brownfield redevelopment, attracting investment and jobs to formerly underutilized eyesores.

There’s one area we should firmly close: tobacco sales to young Hoosiers.  Raising the smoking age – and the state cigarette tax – can cut healthcare costs and boost workplace productivity, leading to a healthier Indiana economy.

Read on for more details on our agenda for economic development and community redevelopment, workforce, infrastructure and more.  Across these priorities, our message to the General Assembly is clear and consistent: Indy will continue to be Indiana’s economic engine – keep our region open for business, and open up new opportunities for our people, employers and communities.

 

Connie Bond Stuart
Regional President – PNC Bank
Chair – Indy Chamber 2018 Board of Directors

 

Michael Huber
President & CEO
Indy Chamber

2018 Priority Issues


EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Ensure children entering primary education levels are academically, socially and emotionally better prepared through the development of publicly funded, outcome-focused, Pre-K programs focused on those in most financial need as well as mandatory, fully-funded, full-day kindergarten by age 5

DIVERSITY

Reinforce and enhance Indiana’s brand as a welcoming and diverse state by:

  • Updating the state’s current anti-discrimination law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations
  • Enacting the “bias crime” penalty enhancements for a criminal offense where it can be proven that the victim or target is intentionally selected for violence because of his/her personal characteristics
  • Restoring the eligibility for in-state tuition and financial aid to state colleges and universities for foreign born students who have matriculated through the Indiana K-12 system

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING

Support a statewide strategy to equitably distribute revenue to communities from those who work, recreate, and consume in those respective localities to pay for the investments, infrastructure and services that make these activities possible. Support the creation of an incremental Local Option Income Tax that would remain in the county of employment

HEALTHY WORKFORCE

Support comprehensive approach to increase the state’s health rates by focusing on the health, wellbeing and productivity of Indiana’s workforce through supporting the efforts of the Alliance for Healthier Indiana to:

  • Increase Indiana’s current 99.5 cents per pack cigarette tax
    • Revenue resulting from the cigarette tax increase should be used to address Indiana’s public health challenges including physical, mental health and addiction; specifically to help tackle the opioid epidemic and increased funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs
  • Raising the statewide legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21
    • At a minimum, the state should remove restrictions on local governments from enacting ordinances to raise the age to 21
  • Repeal preferential treatment for smokers in the workplace (“Smokers’ Bill of Rights”)

BROWNFIELDS

Increase funding options, minimize regulation and encourage investment in brownfields to aid economic development efforts, including a statewide grant program for “Phase I” and “Phase II” environmental site assessments and explore the creation of tax incentives based on employment on former brownfields

Economic Growth


STATE AND LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Tax Increment Financing: Maximize the ability of local government units to respond to redevelopment and economic development opportunities through utilization of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts

  • Transparency: Establish a schedule of performance reports to local governing bodies and encourage the establishment of public online resources for tracking TIF performance metrics, funded by TIF revenue

Local Incentives: Secure and maintain flexibility of local incentives for economic and community development efforts to encourage new growth and redevelopment of existing resources

  • Certified Tech Parks: Increase the Certified Technology Park (CTP) tax capture allowance from the current $5 million cap to allow high performing CTPs to increase public-private investment in the CTP and surrounding areas

State Incentives: Maintain Indiana’s economic competitiveness through the preservation and responsible use of existing state tax incentives, placing emphasis on skills enhancement and workforce training to attract investment from diverse industry sectors

  • Increase funding the state Skills Enhancement Fund to assist companies in addressing 21st Century skills gap

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Investments:  Support policies that can improve the State’s capital environment and nurture innovative activity through:

  • Maintain permanence of the state’s Research and Development, Hoosier Business Investment, and Venture Capital Investment tax credit programs.
  • Increase funding for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund to support industry driven initiatives.
  • Maximize immediate value of state EDGE and VCI tax credit by allowing recipients to transfer credits for cash value
  • Enhancing flexibility for public investment in venture capital funds that invest in Indiana companies
  • Enhancing funding to support more university-sponsored grant programs and seed funding for applied research and commercialization
  • Amend the definition of a “participating lender” under the state’s Capital Access Program to include micro-lending entities to enhance a small business’ access to vital financial resources, helping them grow in Indiana
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Support the continued growth of Indiana information technology sector by clarifying Indiana’s tax laws to clearly exempt SaaS from sales tax collection

Advanced Telecommunications: Building upon the 2006 telecommunications reform, support increased statewide private sector investment in wireless and wire line broadband telecommunications infrastructure. Promote efforts by telecom providers to transition their networks from old legacy technology to an advanced all-IP, all-mobile and all-cloud infrastructure

COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT

Regional Cities Initiative: Promote regional cooperation and strategic quality of life investments through the IEDC’s Regional Cities Initiative (RCI):

  • Support the development of clear metrics to measure success or return on investment of the Regional Cities Initiative from application to project implementation and beyond
  • Develop criteria to prioritize brownfield redevelopment through the RCI
  • Increase funding for technical assistance and planning grants for regional development authorities
  • Encourage the creation of federally recognized Economic Development Districts

Stellar Communities: Support continued investment and rural communities and small towns across Indiana by strengthening and expanding the Indiana Stellar Communities program

Historic Rehabilitation: Increase state funding and incentives to encourage redevelopment and investment in aging commercial, industrial and residential properties

Shovel Ready Redevelopment: Support shovel ready community redevelopment efforts through the creation of a statewide grant program to fund the demolition of blighted commercial properties

Revitalization Grants and Revolving Loan Fund: Allow local governments the ability to make grants and loans to private enterprise for the creation of jobs or otherwise stimulate economic activity

Food Deserts: Support innovative efforts to increase access to healthy food options to improve the health of Indiana resident and workforce

TRANSPORTATION, INFRASTRUCTURE AND ENVIRONMENT

Local Roads and Streets: Ensure adequate funding for local roads and streets, while maintaining equitable funding for urban and suburban areas

  • Financing and Delivery: Provide maximum flexibility to local governments in the financing, design and construction of local transportation infrastructure, including the use of Public-Private Partnerships and Design-Build

Transportation Infrastructure: Advocate for a comprehensive and sustainable multi-modal transportation funding package that addresses both immediate needs and develops long term solutions, balances the needs of state and local governments and prioritizes maintenance, rehabilitation and expansion of existing transportation infrastructure

I-69:  Advocate for the completion of I-69 from the Ohio River Bridge to Indianapolis in the least intrusive, most economically strategic and cost efficient manner

Indiana Commerce Connector (ICC): Advocate that such an undertaking should only commence after careful study on the impact on economic development, core-city development, regional taxation and sprawl and should not be advanced as an alternative to a regional mass transit system

Transportation Alternatives:

  • Autonomous Vehicles: Advocate for regulatory changes that will promote the development, testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles in Indiana
  • Hoosier State Line: Maintain state support to continue operations and enhance service of the Hoosier State Line to better facilitate connectivity and economic opportunity between Indianapolis and Chicago
  • Complete Streets: Pursue state transportation policies that encourage transportation planners and engineers to plan, design, operate and maintain the state’s road and street infrastructure with all users in mind
  • Greenways: Support the creation of a statewide loan or grant fund to build out of greenways and bike lanes for local communities
  • Mass Transit: Further enhance the regional coordination of transit services through the addition of Boone, Hendricks and Morgan counties to the central Indiana transit statute. Restore a dedicated funding stream for the Public Mass Transportation Fund (PMTF) to account for increased participation and demand of transit agencies throughout the state
    • Incentives: Create state employer incentives for employee benefits for alternative modes of transportation, transit packages, workplace bike infrastructure or other modes of transportation that encourage healthier workforce

Water: Support the creation of a statewide coordinating body to ensure sustained economic opportunity through responsible management of water resources

Flooding Mitigation: Create a mechanism to allow communities to capture the increased revenue associated with increased assessed valuation as a result of the flood mitigation project to help pay for the investments

Energy Efficiency: Secure state incentives for business and local government investments in energy-efficient commercial and industrial rehabilitation and fleet management

Local Government and Fiscal Policy


LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE

Home Rule: Allow local government greater flexibility over their own structural and fiscal matters to address the needs of their individual communities

Township Finances: Require township funds that exceed 150% of operating expenses to be spent on infrastructure projects within the township or credited to the taxpayer

GOVERNMENT MODERNIZATION

UniGov: Seek greater efficiencies in municipal service delivery and finance in Marion County by building on the principles of unified government, including county-wide consolidation of fire departments

Redistricting Reform:  Support non-partisan redistricting reform that increases and encourages competition of ideas, decreases polarization in legislative and congressional districts, accurately reflects historic trends in statewide elections and maintains communities of interest and adheres to local political boundaries

Statewide: Continue efforts to streamline overlapping government functions through statewide implementation of recommendations made by the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform to increase accountability, transparency and effectiveness of local governments

Government Innovation: Encourage state and local governments to create Offices of Innovation to drive policies that inspire open data, transparency, drive efficiencies that can result in greater economic activity and workforce development

Alcohol Code Revisions: Support a comprehensive evaluation and modernization of current alcohol laws and regulations, including Sunday Sales of retail carry-out alcohol and removing restrictions on manufacturers, distributors and retailers from producing, distributing or selling beer, wine and spirits

Workforce and Education


WORKFORCE

Employer-Driven, Sector-Specific Workforce Development: Build off of the recent work of the Indiana Career Council and the Indiana Regional Works Councils to better align state secondary education, workforce and economic development strategies to meet the current and future skills demands of regional employers

  • Employer-Sponsored Co-Ops: Supports state-based incentives to encourage businesses to employ students in an apprentice or intern capacity and provide on the job training with the final goal of permanently hiring those who have excelled

Work Opportunity Tax Credit:  Support Hoosiers entering the workforce through the creation of state tax incentive which mirrors the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (FWOTC) program focused on ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed

  • Support incentives for government contractors who hire and retain individuals eligible for WOTC credit

Veteran Re-entry: Increase employment opportunities for returning veterans by eliminating duplicative requirements and expedite processes for military-trained personnel to obtain the equivalent civilian license

Ex-Offender Re-entry: Support policies that promote reintegrating ex-offenders into the workforce and economy by:

  • Minimize business liability and increase incentives to hire ex-offenders
  • Increase job training and skills enhancement opportunities
    • Expanding pre-release entrepreneurship education and training
  • Ensure local compliance of statewide compliance of recent expungement laws
  • Remove barriers related to housing & transportation

HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Career Pathways: Support the creation of college career pathways to ensure curriculum align with current and future skills demands and increase college completion

    • Encourage development of credit awarding workplace readiness courses to enhance experiential learning requirements for degree completion
  • Reverse Credit: Support permitting specific course credit to be transferable and reciprocal between Indiana’s accredited two-year schools and other state-supported colleges and universities to encourage post-secondary certification and degree attainment statewide
  • Return and Complete: Support the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Return and Complete efforts to reengage the 737,000 Hoosiers with some college credit but no degree
  • STEM: Explore the creation of incentives to retain recent STEM-degreed individuals committed to remaining in-state for five years
  • 21st Century Scholars: Enhance outreach and wraparound services and evaluate sustainable funding mechanisms for programs, such as the 21st Century Scholars program, in order to increase access to and completion rates at two- and four-year colleges and universities for those with financial need

Immigration Reform: Encourage federal leadership on comprehensive immigration reform. Restore eligibility for in-state tuition and financial aid to state colleges and universities for foreign born students who have matriculated through the Indiana K-12 system

EDUCATION

STEM: Support the continued work of the Indiana Department of Education to assess the qualitative and quantitative capacity of STEM instruction and empower a public body comprised of k-12 practitioners, higher education and workforce development professionals and private industry experts to implement the finding of the STEM assessment

  • Explore the creation of incentives to retain recent STEM-degreed individuals committed to remaining in-state for five years

High School Career Counselors:

  • Decrease the student-to-counselor ratio, require regular professional development for school counselors and ensure academic coursework align with students’ desired career pathways
  • Explore modification of counselor licensure to differentiate career counseling from social/emotional counseling
  • Require school counselors to advise students in middle school (6th, 7th and 8th grades) of their eligibility to enroll in various state financial aid programs

Autonomy: Provide school districts flexibility to pay teachers based on high need and specialized subject matter areas. Empower local education officials to make administrative and structural decisions affecting individual school performance, including the option to extend school hours, merit pay options, providing voluntary alternative retirement benefits options such as defined contribution plans for new teachers

Charter Authority: Expand the authority of the Mayor of Indianapolis to charter Pre-K educational institutions and require local public hearings for the re-chartering of schools attempting to switch charter authorizers after a charter has been revoked

Financial Literacy: Promote financial literacy education through existing k-12 curriculum requirements and encourage the DOE to develop sample curriculum for local schools to implement

School Funding: Support the inclusion of the second count date for the k-12 funding formula to ensure schools are able to adequately accommodate changing student populations throughout the school year