(INDIANAPOLIS) — A new statewide poll of Hoosier voters shows strong support for two of the Indiana Chamber’s leading policy priorities for the 2019 Indiana General Assembly session.

The Indiana Chamber and allies are advocating for improving health outcomes for smokers through increasing the cigarette tax by $2 a pack and raising the legal smoking age to 21. In the new survey, 62% support an increase in cigarette taxes, with 44% falling in the strongly support category. The numbers are even higher on raising the legal age, with total support of 65% and strong support at 52%.

It’s worth noting that even before this month’s 2018 America’s Health Rankings revealed that Indiana’s smoking rate has gone up to 21.8% (from 21.1%) and our rank among the 50 states has fallen to 44th (from 39th), participants in the Chamber survey were clear in wanting action to be taken.

“Our health metrics place Indiana near the bottom of the 50 states. This results in tragic individual and family outcomes, as well as proving costly to communities and businesses ($7.2 billion annually in increased health care costs and lost productivity). We cannot truly be among the very best states to work and live without dramatic improvement in these areas,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Another Indiana Chamber priority for 2019 is enacting a meaningful bias crime statute. Brinegar emphasizes, “Indiana is a warm and welcoming state. But it is time to remove any perception that is not true and, most importantly, remove Indiana from the short list of states without a bias crimes law.”

Seventy-four percent of voters surveyed agree. That backing crosses political party lines. The support for a bias crimes law is 63% among Republicans, 75% for independents and 84% for Democrats.

A third issue, long championed by the Indiana Chamber, is expanding state-funded preschool for low-income families. While a program was approved in 2014 and extended three years later, it still only reaches a fraction of those in need. Due to other funding priorities, lawmakers have expressed little interest in expanding the program this year.

Eighty-six percent of Hoosiers support additional investment in preschool. This is an increase from 79% when the same question was posed in a 2015 survey.

“Over the last 15 years, Indiana lawmakers and leaders have done an excellent job of enhancing our state’s business climate. The Chamber has focused on that mission through our Indiana Vision 2025 plan,” Brinegar says. “But as these key policies from the survey indicate, there is still more work to do to keep moving Indiana forward.”

Learn more about Indiana Vision 2025 and Indiana Chamber policy priorities, which have been developed by volunteer leaders of Chamber member companies and adopted by the organization’s board of directors, at www.indianachamber.com.

The Indiana Chamber commissioned its poll of 600 registered voters in December.

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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.”