(INDIANAPOLIS) — How will the money be prioritized? That’s the overriding question as lawmakers return to the Indiana General Assembly next week to start work on a new two-year state budget.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce will be pushing for more dollars for an expanded education-based preschool program for low-incomefamilies.
“Prudent financial decisions are necessary in budget sessions but so too is investing where it makesgreatsense,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The current five-county preschool pilot program is inadequate. Indiana has too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to learn.”
The need, Brinegar points out, is further underscored by the 1,800 applicants for the 450 slots in the pilot program. “We will be pushing the Legislature to see a substantial increase to the preschool initiative.”
Brinegar notes the Indiana Chamber also will be advocating for the state budget to include funding for workforce training with increased designations for high wage career areas, like those in science, technology, engineering and math.
In other education matters, the Indiana Chamber has a longstanding policy of making the state superintendent of public instruction an appointed position and will be seeking to start that on course to becoming reality.
Brinegar acknowledges the political challenges but is encouraged that legislative leaders recognize that something has to change. “At a minimum, there is consensus for some level of surety that the State Board of Education will function more smoothly and stay on task.”
The Governor’s proposal of letting the State Board of Education elect its own chair is “a concept the Indiana Chamber can endorse and would be a good starting point if making the superintendent an appointed position is unable to prevail this session.”
In the tax arena, Brinegar says there appears to be strong interestamong the General Assembly to provide relief to small business personal property tax filers. Indeed, the Commission on Business Taxation has voiced its support for getting rid of the tax for these users. And that’s what the Indiana Chamber wants to see happen.
“It’s a time-consuming and ineffective process. All sides would come out ahead witha small businessexemption. Much effort is spent by small businesses and their local governments on these returns. And for what? The tax liability often averages between only $10 and $50 per small business. In total, these returns come to a mere 1% of the overall business personal property tax collected,” Brinegar explains.
The Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities (https://www.indianachamber.com/priorities) as well as additional areas of focus will be distributed to legislators on Tuesday, the first day of the 2015 legislative session. Among the other items on the list:
- Developing and funding the state’s new K-12 academic standards, while using existing consortia tests with Indiana modifications (no Indiana-specific test is necessary).
- Establishing a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporaryeconomicdownturns.
- Allocating a greater portion of state sales tax be committed to Indiana roadmaintenance. The Indiana Chamber proposes dedicatingtheseven cents of gasoline sales tax to the state’s highway fund. (The current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to thestategeneral fund.)
- Continued development of a statewide water policy to assure plentiful resources and our economic future.
The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”