The Indiana Chamber of Commerce says long-term funding for infrastructure and pre-k education are among its top priorities for the 2017 legislative session. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brinegar says the chamber could support raising fuel taxes and charging fees for alternative fuel vehicles to "ensure that every user pays their fair share." On early childhood education, Brinegar says his hope is that "disadvantaged youngsters take priority for the state’s limited dollars." The chamber outlined its priorities today in Indianapolis at its annual Legislative Preview.
Additionally on education, Brinegar says the chamber is pushing for "suitable testing" and accountability for students and others involved in the education process. While there have been issues with ISTEP, Brinegar says "the fundamental importance of measuring students, teachers and schools remain" to track progress and rate teacher and school effectiveness.
The chamber is also putting a focus on reducing the smoking rate in Indiana, which Brinegar says fuels increased health care costs for businesses. "These workers are less healthy," says Brinegar, "have higher insurance premiums and miss more days on the job." The chamber is a member of the recently-announced Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, which is a collaboration among health care, advocacy and business leaders to tackle the state’s health care challenges.
Brinegar says the chamber supports proposals including raising cigarette taxes, funding a stronger smoking cessation program and increasing the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
The chamber is also pushing for a stronger voice from Indiana technology leaders at the Statehouse. The organization took part in the formation of the Indiana Technology and Innovation Council to promote better communication and coordination among top tech voices. Brinegar says the goal is to "make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity."
The chamber’s official top 8 legislative priorities are:
- Support establishing a long-term sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, bridges, etc.
- Support the expansion of publicly-funded preschool initiatives for children from low-income families
- Support suitable testing for students and accountability for all involved in the education process
- Support comprehensive approach to decreasing the state’s smoking rate
- Support a statewide water policy to assure future resources and our economic prosperity
- Support making technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity
- Support maintaining and enhancing our attractive tax climate
- Support a work share program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns