By Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO
The Indiana General Assembly has a strong track record, over many years, of productive legislative sessions that have helped propel our state’s business climate to top 10 status in the country. The 2018 edition does not earn a spot on that list.
Yes, it is more difficult to enact game-changing legislation in a short, non-budget session with elections looming. Yes, there seemed to be a lack of clarity on “what’s next” after a long-term road funding plan was put into place in 2017. But common-sense efforts to address some long-term needs inexplicably fell by the wayside.
One must question why no action was taken on the following when options were available:
- Helping reduce our very costly high smoking rate
- Improving a local government system that may have worked in the 1850s but doesn’t today
- Preparing for an eventual economic downturn by adopting a work share program.
Workforce development was a near universal number one priority. The focus on developing an employer-driven system is in the right place. The legislative grade, however, is incomplete, with much more needed in 2019.
There are a few victories to mention. One, sending a very strong economic development message and enhancing a growing software-as-a-service industry by exempting such transactions from sales taxes. Second, near unanimous support for incorporating computer science courses into all schools. And, continuing to make progress on developing a water resources plan is critical, although the time for actually forming and implementing that plan is drawing closer.
A final exclamation point on the 2018 General Assembly will come during the May special session. While unfortunate it came to this, Governor Holcomb made the right call to bring legislators back to finish their work.
The Legislature failed to pass the measure (House Bill 1316) with the state’s response to the major federal tax reform changes that occurred in December. That’s a big problem to not have reconciled because state taxes are based on the federal definition of adjusted gross income. Without it, Hoosier businesses would incur additional compliance costs. Their required quarterly tax estimates would turn into guesses and ultimately become planning and cash flow challenges.
With that issue addressed in the special session, lawmakers can end on a better note than the disarray of mid-March. But the reluctance to act that plagued the 2018 Legislature can’t carry over to next year.
Indiana can’t afford another session with so many missed opportunities and where lawmakers began to resemble the dysfunction in Congress. We need a return to pushing forth bold policies that move our state forward and help set it apart.
Resource: Kevin Brinegar at (317) 264-6882 or email: [email protected]