Public Policy

A closer look at the Partnership for a New American Economy

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

This post, authored by Marty Carpenter, appears on the Salt Lake Chamber’s blog.  You can visit the original post here.  Marty and Robin Riggs, both from the Salt Lake Chamber presented last week’s Government Relations Peer-to-Peer call on Immigration – the Utah Compact.

Partnership for a New American Economy from Salt Lake Chamber on Vimeo.

Immigration was the most hotly contested issue in the past legislative session. The Salt Lake Chamber is one of the original signatories of The Utah Compact, a document outlining five guiding principles to guide Utah’s immigration discussion. The first principle of The Utah Compact states that immigration is a federal issue. The Chamber, along with other business, community and religious leaders, supports immigration reform at the national level.

Jeremy Robbins, policy advisor for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, helps manage the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders and mayors joined to make the economic case for smarter economic reforms.

Robbins spoke to a group of business leaders at the Chamber. He sat down to discuss the goals his organization, the need for national reform and the economic impact of immigration policies.

Read more: A closer look at the Partnership for a New American Economy
Deseret News: ‘Smart’ immigration reform would create more American jobs, speaker says
The Salt Lake Tribune: SLC-area mayors are urged to make immigration an economic issue
Chamber Executive: Immigration:  A Business and Chamber Issue
ACCE Policy Clearinghouse Blog: Utah Compact on Immigration

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Gov. Walker signs bill at MMAC

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, May 6, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker visited the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) on Thursday to sign a bill that will pre-empt local ordinances from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees for family, medical or health issues. 

Milwaukee’s paid sick leave ordinance, passed by voters in 2008, would be voided.   The ordinance would have required Milwaukee employers to provide up to nine days of paid sick time per year depending on the number of hours worked and the size of the business.  The city’s sick leave ordinance has never gone into effect due to legal challenges. 

“This law removes another barrier in the road to creating 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015,” Walker said.  “Patchwork government mandates stifle job creation and economic opportunity.  This law gives employers the flexibility they need to put people back to work and that makes Wisconsin a more attractive place to do business.”

MMAC has been working hard against the ordinance, challenging the law in the court system and pushing for the legislation to nullify the local ordinance.  MMAC President Tim Sheehy says “by signing this bill into law, the Governor has helped ensure that the City of Milwaukee remains ‘open for business.’”

Not everyone is pleased by the new bill.  9to5, National Association of Working women, led the Paid Sick Days Coalition that includes labor groups, health groups, civil rights and faith organizations, advocates for children and jobs and an end to domestic violence.  They intend to look into the legality of the new law and feel that “the override of the Milwaukee sick days law is an assault on democracy, local control and working families,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for 9to5.

Read more: Walker Signs Bill Prohibiting Ordinances That Guarantee Sick Leave
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Walker signs law pre-empting sick day ordinance
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Bill voiding sick leave law sent to Walker
MMAC: Assembly vote rolls back job-killing employer mandate
MMAC Insider: Bill Voiding Paid Sick Leave Law Passes Corporate Donors over Wisconsin Voters, Walker Signs Bill at MMAC Today
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Court of Appeals reinstates Milwaukee sick pay law
The Business Journal: Judge rules Milwaukee sick leave law unconstitutional, appeal promised

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Council on State Taxation releases new Business Tax Competitiveness Study

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, April 22, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

This week, the Council on State Taxation (COST) and Ernst & Young announced the release of a new study ranking states by tax burden on new investment.  They have provided a state-by-state comparison of the tax liabilities that new investments in selected industries or types of economic activities would incur in each state.  

COST’s study identifies the 10 states with the highest and lowest effective tax rates for the types of new capital investments being made in the U.S.  The business tax burdens include income and franchise taxes on profits, real and personal property tax and sales taxes on business input purchases.  Overall, the study shows a large difference in tax burdens among the states.

In the study’s introduction, COST urges legislators to examine the entire system of state and local business taxes, not just a single tax, in evaluating their state’s tax competitiveness. 

COST acknowledges that tax liability on new investments is just one factor of many that weigh into a decision by a company to invest in a state.  Typically, companies select locations for new investments by examining a wide range of factors including workforce, property, tax system features and non-tax costs.  This study does not consider variable issues such as availability of tax credits or incentives, unemployment taxes or certain industry specific taxes. 

To read COST’s full report: Competitiveness of state and local business taxes on new investment

For more on using and fighting rankings, join us for a free webinar on rankings from a communications and public policy perspective next Tuesday at 1pm ET.  Click here for more information and to register.

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States looking closely at for-profit colleges

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan vowed to change the way for-profit schools do business after a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that for-profit colleges inflated graduation and job placement rates when enrolling students and signing them up for state and federal loans.  The Education Department has since postponed their planned new rules after receiving pressure from for-profit education lobbyists and opposition in Congress.

States, tired of waiting on the federal government, have taken matters into their own hands.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers in 17 states have introduced for-profit college bills this year, many of them designed to tighten regulation of the schools. 

Maryland enacted measures that would eliminate all state aid to for-profit schools, ban commissions or bonuses for student recruiting and make all for-profit schools in the state contribute to a fund to protect students if any college in their group breaches a contract.

California lawmakers approved legislation that would restrict a for-profit college’s eligibility to receive state aid in the form of Cal Grants.

Nebraska’s state senators are looking to approve a measure that would update the state’s higher education regulations.  The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Greg Adams, says it would streamline the application process that schools have to follow to pass the Nebraska Commission for Post-Secondary Education.  The legislation would also increase the school’s accountability to the state once they were approved.

Not only are legislative branches looking at for-profit colleges, attorneys general in at least four states have launched investigations of for-profit schools.

For-profit colleges are concerned that states might be more concerned with closing their budget gaps rather than with education practices.  For-profit schools aren’t against updating an outdated regulatory system, but they are concerned if reducing/eliminating their funding is a way to solve the states’ budget woes.

To read more: For-profit colleges face more state scrutiny

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State aid for community colleges shrinks as demand rises

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Community colleges across the country are losing state funding.  According to a Stateline analysis of Department of Education data, the state share of funding fell by one percentage point to 26.8 percent.  This drop doesn’t account for more severe cuts that states continue to debate as they work to close their budget gap. 

As state aid shrinks, community college enrollments are increasing at a rapid pace.  Federal statistics show a 20 percent increase in the number of students between 2004 and 2009.  Community colleges are providing training and education for unemployed workers and serving as a more affordable alternative to four-year schools for high school graduates.

Texas, Arizona and California community colleges are experiencing the greatest hit.  Community college administrators in Arizona expect to see the 1 percent state funding that they receive disappear in the coming years and California has had to turn away approximately 150,000 students due to overcrowded classrooms.  Texas community colleges will receive a 20 percent budget cut. 

These budget cuts are making administrators consider whether a community college can survive in this environment.  Administrators are worrying about rationing education in their communities and the possibility of leaving communities with no institutions of higher learning if the community college is forced to shut its doors.

Read more: Stateline – As enrollments soar and state aid vanishes, community colleges reconsider their role

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Chamber looking at food truck ordinance

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, April 11, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

As communities are filling their need for increased food trucks, one chamber is looking to help clarify a local food truck ordinance that is outdated and unclear.

The Napa Chamber is looking to help rewrite a city ordinance that increases clarity for food truck operators.  As it stands now, a food truck must move every 15 minutes.  If a truck wants to park on private property for a longer term, they must file for a use permit.  The ordinance doesn’t include any truck design, operating times or location guidelines.

This issue came to the chamber’s attention last fall after a food and beverage task force was formed.  The chamber learned that the city was asking food trucks to have use permits to linger in specific areas.

The chamber is asking that a group of food truck owners, restaurant owners, residents another others write a draft ordinance for city consideration.  While the draft ordinance is being written, the chamber is asking that the city postpone approving use permits until a new resolution is in place. 

The chamber’s goal is not to tie up food trucks with more regulation, but to clear up misunderstandings of the current ordinance and create an even playing field for all restaurants.   

To read more: Napa Valley Register – Chamber asks for tougher look at food truck ordinance
Napa Business Focus - Napa Chamber’s Letter to City of Napa

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Chamber Supports Pre-K Initiative

Chaaron Pearson on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce is trying to raise public awareness about the need for pre-kindergarten education in the county.

On Monday, April 4th, The Quality Education Committee of One Voice, One Vision, One Morgan County held a press conference to unveil a checklist of skills needed for a child to have a successful start in kindergarten.

This initiative is a collaboration of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, Calhoun Community College, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, Decatur City Schools, Decatur City Schools Foundation, Decatur Heritage Christian Academy, Decatur Public Library, Hartselle City Schools, Morgan County Schools and St. Ann Catholic School. 

The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce sites the Pew Center on the States research findings that high quality Pre-K education leads to better success in school and life.  Jim Page, Vice President of Public Policy and Business Development at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber, talked about the possibility of reducing the prison population and the dropout rate, if local children are properly educated.

Decatur and Morgan County businesses identified the need to increase the education level of the population long ago.  A study showed that one in five children is reading impaired by the time that they are in the 4th grade.  A contributing factor to those study findings is the lack of funding and classroom space.  The Quality Education Committee plans to address these issues as well.

Decatur and Morgan County businesses and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce are working to maximize family, business and community involvement to increase student success.

Read more:
Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce Press Release
Kindergarten Readiness Skills Checklist
Chamber Supports Pre-Kindergarten Initiate

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A victory for small business: 1099 provision repealed

Chaaron Pearson on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

The Senate voted 87-12 to repeal the unpopular 1099 provision of the Affordable Health Care Act, Tuesday.  Small business owners have expressed their frustration at the provision, which would require them to report to the IRS all payments of more than $600 on 1099 forms.  This would have significantly increased paperwork required of a small business and many don’t have the necessary time or manpower to complete the new requirements.

The House of Representatives took the first step in repealing the provision in early March.  Now that the provision has been repealed in the Senate, it will move to President Obama’s desk.  Shortly after the Senate vote, the White House signaled that President Obama would sign the repeal, despite opposition to the House proposed offset to pay for the repeals.

Many chambers are celebrating this victory as they have worked tirelessly with their small business members and congressional delegates to repeal the 1099 provision.   A policy update from COSE recounts their work with legislators to raise awareness about the issue and demonstrate the detrimental impact the 1099 provision would have on small business.  COSE is thrilled with the victory and applauds the legislators for their work and the efforts small businesses put forth to advocate against the issue as well.

On a national level, ASAE and the US Chamber also led efforts to repeal the 1099 provision and are celebrating success with their memberships.

Read more:
1099 Repeal Passes Senate, Heads to White House – NYT Small Business Blog
Senate Passes 1099 Bill – Fox Small Business
1099 Repeal Heads to President’s Desk – Free Enterprise: US Chamber

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Why state budget deficit numbers don’t match

Chaaron Pearson on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Is the math that hard?

In a word, yes.  The math is that hard.  In Texas, for example, it has been reported that there is between a $15 billion and $27 billion shortfall with some claiming $15 billion and others claiming $27 billion.  What accounts for these differences?

Budget shortfalls rely on two estimates, estimated state revenue and estimated state spending and this year there are large disagreements on the spending side of the equation.  How much of the budget is increased for inflation?  What about population growth?  How much can be cut?  What will be cut?

States with shortfalls are looking to bridge the gap to balance the budget and maintain the current level of services.  In recent years, huge shortfall numbers have plagued troubled states. 

Budget disagreements are nothing new, but budget deficit solutions (taxes and budget cuts) are unpleasant.  When the budget shows a surplus, it’s rare for politicians to be upset.

Read more: Stateline – State budgets explained: Why deficit figures don’t always add up

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Georgia Infrastructure Bank

Chaaron Pearson on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 12:00:00 am 

Three years after it was created, Georgia’s infrastructure bank has received just four applications for loans from local governments.  It awarded only a single loan for $1 million in 2009 and has $32 million left in the bank.  The formation of an infrastructure bank was a transportation initiative of former Governor Sonny Perdue in 2008.

In an effort to attract business for the bank, Governor Nathan Deal backed changes that will now let local governments use money for repair and upkeep, not just new projects.  The governor believes that the money will not be unused and thinks that this is “one of the more progressive things we’ve done to assist local governments.”

Even with low interest rates, communities are still hesitant to borrow in tight times.  Communities have decided against applying for loans on their infrastructure projects because they don’t want to pay even low interest fees.

The bank also has a pool of $10 million for grants available to community improvement projects.  The entire pool was awarded to eight recipients last year.

Read more: Atlantic Journal - Constitution

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