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Actor and nepo baby Scott Caan, not generally known for being erudite, is nonetheless quoted as having once said, “Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” For the first—and likely last—time ever, the Indy Chamber’s Business Advocacy team heartily agrees with Mr. Caan the younger, which is why we binge-watched this week as the Indiana General Assembly filed 2023’s priority bills.

Here’s to your health.

The must-watch bills in this session’s lineup are heavily focused on Hoosiers’ health and our state’s public health system. Senator Mike Crider is leading the way in his chamber with SB1, an important push to strengthen Indiana’s mental health crisis response infrastructure—a core priority of the Indy region business community this session. Senator Ed Charbonneau’s SB4 also takes critical steps to implement the structural reforms recommended by Governor Holcomb’s Public Health Commission, optimizing Indiana’s health delivery system and investing in the prevention of health challenges.

The issue of Hoosiers’ health is not a perception problem, it’s a problem-problem, and one that undercuts our ability to attract new businesses. Given that enhancing Indiana’s competitiveness by improving Hoosier workforce health outcomes is one of Indy Chamber’s highest legislative priorities this session, we’ll be watching every episode—er, hearing—in which SB1 and SB4 are the storyline.

Also, of interest to lawmakers are the costs of healthcare, coverage, and prescription medicines. SB6SB7, and SB8 are aimed at healthcare billing, physician noncompetes, and pharmaceutical pricing, respectively. On the House side, HB1003 and 1004 take aim at costs with proposals that ratchet up the competition among both providers and insurers.

The cost of health debate is an issue that affects nearly every resident and every employer (current or prospective) in the state of Indiana. The Indy Chamber calls for comprehensive strategies to keep Indiana’s healthcare costs competitive with state and national averages— while rejecting heavy-handed interventions that merely shift the cost burden, rather than lightening it. No doubt that this debate will last through the whole session, so stay tuned.

Moving Out in a New Way

Just like the 1970’s educational TV show The Electric Company, Indiana’s House of Representatives is looking at a new way to move high school students toward graduation. HB1002 would expand work-based learning, apprenticeships, and internships for high schoolers and allow those experiences to count toward graduation requirements. The approach resonates with the Modern Apprenticeship Program being driven by EmployIndy and Ascend Indiana and endorsed by the Indy Chamber.

Bridging the talent opportunity gap is another of the Indy Chamber’s priorities for 2023, meaning all forms of postsecondary attainment that increase workforce readiness and make education more responsive to market demands get an “A+” from us. What’s more, these types of programs are an important factor in training and retaining Hoosier talent and are becoming increasingly important to Chamber members dealing with a historically tight labor market.

The Taxman Cometh.

Indiana Senate Republicans have also introduced priority bills that deep dive into tax issues. Under SB2, Indiana S-corps and LLCs will be able to deduct the full amount of their SALT (state and local tax) payments from their federal tax bill. That’s a big boost to small business in the Indy Region and across the state. Senator Travis Holdman’s SB3 proposes to set up a State and Local Tax Commission to take a comprehensive look at Indiana’s taxing structures, especially income and property tax.

While lower taxes are generally music to business owners’ ears, we do have a few notes to add to the discussion as the bill moves forward. The first is about road funding, which sits high on the list of our 2023 legislative priorities. Could there be room in the comprehensive approach of SB3 to examine the relationship between our future tax system and local road funding? Particularly in a future where the gas tax is declining as a source of revenue, we think this conversation deserves some limelight.

The second note has just a hint of caution: there are limits to a low-cost governance strategy. Since Indiana’s tax climate consistently ranks among the best in the nation, what we hear most (from our member businesses and employers considering an investment in the state) are questions on talent availability and quality-of-life issues. We’re all for maintaining our highly competitive tax environment but urge leaders to prioritize strategies that will attract and retain working-age residents.

Speaking of music…

New House Ways and Means chair Jeff Thompson (long-time W&M member and driver of some of the most detailed and complex backend budget buildouts) yesterday presided over the release of the Indiana House of Representatives’ biennial budget.

The document is a $52.5B, 238-page magnum opus that had your Indy Chamber staff up all night reading. While we continue to analyze, a couple of high points:

  1. If you’re hearing loud music in your ears, it’s probably because the House budget proposes to fund Indiana READI 2.0 to the tune of $500 million over the biennium (that’s a lot of tunes!). We’re big fans of READI 2.0, not least because of the high degree of flexibility for eligible projects, thanks to it being entirely state-funded.
  2. We won’t be the only ones applauding if Kyle Walker’s proposal for an Indiana Sports Corp bid fund is successfully funded (it’s in the House budget, so well on its way). The $10M fund is a critical investment in maintaining the state’s competitive edge in sports and tourism event hosting. Walker’s proposal stipulates at least 30% of those dollars be spent outside of Marion County, giving facilities around Indiana something to cheer about, including those in the Indy Region like Westfield’s Grand Park.

Ready Player R1.

Indiana University President Pam Whitten and Purdue University President Mung Chiang joined their peers from Indiana’s public universities to present their proposed budgets to Ways & Means during this first week of session. Even more interesting than the numbers, though, was the discussion of the value of Research 1 or R1 institutions in metropolitan areas. The Indy Region’s most competitive peers have a few things in common: vibrant and growing neighborhoods, readily available talent, and R1s.

Plans from both IU and Purdue to expand their presence in downtown Indianapolis are incredible opportunities to positively impact talent development and retention along with overall quality of life. Supporting IU Indy on its path to R1 status is a critical element in elevating the Indy Region’s competitiveness—as such, it’s a core recommendation of the Chamber’s Accelerate Indy regional economic development strategy.

 

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