At the beginning of session, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma presented the House Republican agenda with other members of our caucus. The agenda included several fundamental issues including cutting taxes, connecting crossroads to communities, equipping our workforce, preparing children for their careers and stopping burdensome regulations. Now that this year’s session has officially come to a close, here is how we addressed each of these issues and delivered on our promises.
One of Indiana’s biggest strengths is its business tax climate. Our fiscal integrity and pro-business policies have allowed us to continue to attract jobs to our state, while other states have found themselves in the red during the recession. In continuing with this reputation and remaining competitive with our neighboring states, it was time that we did something about the business personal property tax (BPPT).
All of our neighboring states either do not have a BPPT or collect it at a lower rate. After receiving input from all interested parties, we wanted to give counties the option of exempting businesses from this tax on new property and increasing the abatement period for counties that wanted to exempt the tax for up to 20 years. The optional exemption will serve as another tool for local governments to use in attracting businesses and investment to their communities.
A favorable tax climate is a very important factor that businesses consider, in addition to infrastructure, workforce development and education. Our state’s expansive transportation network is critical to the Hoosier economy, with 1.7 million jobs depending on them in industries such as tourism, agriculture and retail sales. House Bill (HB) 1002 addresses this issue by transferring highway construction funds already allocated in our 2013 budget to be used immediately. HB 1002 allows a transfer of up to $400M in state funds to be used with upwards of $1.6B in federal dollars supplementing our investment for statewide road construction projects. We recognize the importance of our highway system as the Crossroads of America, and I support connecting Hoosier communities with this appropriation.
Another thing that has made Indiana stand out from many other states is our impressive rate of job creation. Indiana’s unemployment rate has been steadily dropping and is now below seven percent. It can still stand to be even lower; however, we can’t do that without adequately equipping our workforce. That’s where HB 1003 comes in. HB 1003 ensures that Hoosiers possess the necessary skills to work in a competitive job market by providing additional incentives to employers who partner with education institutions to provide internships in high wage, high demand jobs.
The task of equipping our workforce must start long before high school and college though. In fact, it must start before a child ever gets on the school bus for kindergarten. Children living in poverty are less likely to be enrolled in pre-K programs or have meaningful educational experiences prior to entering kindergarten. Thus, they are more likely to be further behind their peers when they begin their K-12 education. This is particularly an issue in Indiana because we are one of very few states that doesn’t have a publically supported preschool education system.
HB 1004 is historic for Indiana as it establishes a preschool pilot program for students of low-income families. The program is limited to families at 127 percent of the federal poverty level and below, allowing low-income families the opportunity to send their children to pre-school.
While it’s good to pass new laws and provisions to promote a better Indiana, there is another often overlooked duty of the legislature – to repeal measures we have previously passed that are not working or are outdated. In fact, some previous measures are not only ineffective, they are harmful. That’s why the House passed HB 1005. HB 1005 repeals government regulations that are restrictive or just plain detrimental. Taking this important step ensures that we don’t overstep our bounds and that we respect the freedom and liberty of individual Hoosiers as well as businesses.
I hope that now you have a better insight into why I believe this session was such a great success, and I look forward to continuing to build on that success during the interim.