Why does federal government have a role in transportation funding?

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Janet Kavinoky talks about the need for infrastructure investment. She is a national recognized expert in transportation policy, funding and finance.

Kavinoky developed and leads the Chamber’s Let’s Rebuild America (LRA) initiative to raise the profile of infrastructure issues, broaden stakeholder engagement, and create new opportunities for businesses to influence public policy.

Scott Parson – Getting employees involved in legislative process

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

During the the 2014 General Session, the Salt Lake Chamber Vote website monitored the course of 298 bills that had an impact on business. Through this website, upwards of 9,800 emails were sent to state representatives, asking them to act on policy decisions.

Staker Parson Companies was responsible for sending a majority of those emails because of the engagement of their president and CEO, Scott Parson. The Salt Lake Chamber was so impressed by the company’s participation that we brought Scott in for a brief conversation about how he was able to engage employees and have his employees take action in the political process. He shares his insights on why business leaders should support employees’ involvement in the political process and how they can become a great asset for important issues. See the interview here.

To see how Utah’s business community’s policy priorities did on Capitol Hill this year, see the Chamber’s 2014 Legislative Scorecard.

Most states flunk on health care price transparency

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog here.

Source: Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and Catalyst for Payment Reform.

Finding health care pricing and quality information is hard. You can’t Google the price of a medical procedure and find a useful answer. A report finds that state governments aren’t helping.

Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute released their Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws, looking at state laws and regulations on health care transparency and state-mandated websites for collecting price data.

Only five states received a passing grade.

Francois de Brantes of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute and Suzanne Delbanco, Executive Director of Catalyst for Payment Reform laid much of the blame on website problems:

Some states have robust price transparency laws and regulations, requiring them to create a publicly available website with price information based on real paid claims information; but in reality, the public can’t readily access that information because the website is poorly designed, or poorly functioning. Given that so many state-mandated websites are inadequate, once we included websites into our review and grading, no state received an “A” in this year’s Report Card.

On Monday, expounding on the recommendations in last year’s four-part report in improving the health care system, the U.S. Chamber Health Care Solutions Council discussed the need for making meaningful health care information more easily available.

The private sector is playing a crucial role. Companies like Boeing and Dow are leading the way within their organizations. In addition, startups, like Procured Health, are developing price transparency tools:

On the Procured Health system, doctors can leave detailed feedback and recommendations about medical devices. Before making a purchasing decision, hospital admins can use the software to pull up a variety of products, which range in quality and price.

The lack of easily available price and quality information keeps consumers and employers in the dark on costs and prevents both from being smarter shoppers of health care. It is a valuable tool in containing rising health costs. State governments have to do a lot more on their end to improve transparency.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute discussed the report card on Fox Business.

How the 2014 General Session impacted business

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Utah business community commends the Utah legislature for another great year for business. The 2014 General Session wrapped up in March, and the newly released Salt Lake Chamber 2014 Legislative Scorecard highlights how the business community’s policy priorities fared.

“Utah’s economy 
is in a spectacular position because
 of the leadership 
of our Governor, Legislature and
 our great business community working together to bring compromise for important progress for our state,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

The Salt Lake Chamber Vote website monitored the course of 298 bills that had an impact on business through the legislative session. Through that website tool, more than 9,800 emails were sent to state representatives, asking them to act on policy decisions. Eleven of 13 business community priority bills passed, and the average of “yes” votes on priority bills stood at 83 percent. With a 93 percent passage of supported bills, 2014 was an excellent year for Utah’s business community.

Here’s what the Utah’s Legislature helped accomplish this year:

STRENGTHENED COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION

•  Provided $62 million to public education, increasing the weighted pupil unit by 2.5 percent and
another $62 million to fund 10,300 new students
• Invested toward goal of 66 percent of adults with a postsecondary degree or certificate, providing $50 million to equalize funding and increase capacity in our state’s higher education institutions
• Expanded efforts to reach goals of 90 percent proficiency in reading and math among Utah students, allocating more than $7 million for preschool and early intervention programs for at-risk children, and $20 million to STEM education

ENHANCED COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY

• Approved a multi-decade effort to support the development of a convention center hotel, benefiting
the entire state
• Authorized $400,000 in business marketing, corporate recruitment and business expansion efforts, as well as $15 million in tourism marketing
• Addressed critical community issues through investing $100,000 to incentivize employers to hire the homeless
• Tackled issues of panhandling and solicitation around Utah’s highways and sidewalks that negatively impact the ability to conduct business in a safe manner
• Partnered to fund $400,000 for the Your Utah, Your Future quality growth initiative

ACTED TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY

• Funded a $500,000 air quality education campaign
• Provided $1 million in scientific research to help better understand the causes of air pollution
• Established a $200,000 fund to help small businesses reduce air emissions through new technologies and programs
• Created a $250,000 fund to incentivize the conversion of sole-source wood burning homes to cleaner energy heating
• Addressed mobile emissions through enabling enhanced infrastructure for electric vehicles,
providing tax credits to purchase alternative fuel vehicles and mandating 50 percent of the State’s vehicle fleet to be highly efficient vehicles by 2015

ESTABLISHED PLATFORM FOR FUTURE ACTION

• Jump-started a robust conversation to address both the $11.3 billion funding gap outlined in the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan and the significant need for increased education funding
• Moved toward improving Utah’s air quality and set the stage for further discussions on issues such as Tier 3 fuels and improving statewide transit systems

The 2014 Legislative Scorecard also has a bill-by-bill tally of priority bills and their impacts on Utah business. To see the PDF of the 2014 Legislative Scorecard, click here

 

Why immigration reform would be good for Americans

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the U.S. Chamber blog here

Earlier this week, S&P chief US economist Beth Ann Bovino, made a strong case that immigration reform will be good for the economy [emphasis mine]:

If such immigration reform becomes law, we expect that it could add about 3.2 percentage points to real GDP in the next 10 years (2015 to 2024). It would likely add even more to growth in the following decade—a meaningful bump for an economy continuing to recover from the Great Recession. This would also help reduce Uncle Sam’s growing budget problems, likely cutting about $150 billion in real terms from our deficit in 10 years and likely even more the next.

Reform would “lead to higher productivity of both labor and capital because the influx of workers–particularly those highly skilled–could make for additional technological advancements, such as new inventions and improvements in production processes,” she writes.

In the report, Bovino tackles the question of why increasing immigration into the United States won’t hurt American workers [emphasis mine]:

The immigrants that come to the U.S. typically complement the native labor force; they don’t substitute for American workers. The two groups will overlap somewhat, in terms of demographic and socioeconomic features, but immigrants often fit into the labor force in areas and occupations where there are insufficient numbers of comparable native workers, both for high- and low-skilled occupations. In other words, more people entering the jobs market doesn’t mean lower wages and a higher unemployment rate, it means a bigger economy.

She explains:

Whether they are new immigrants or recent college graduates, new workers will need to buy food, some mode of transportation to get them to work, and other consumable goods and services. In short: They need to buy stuff, which creates more jobs. Demand for housing will also likely increase dramatically as these new immigrants enter the economy and form households. They would also need to buy furnishings, meaning more money spent, more jobs, and more tax revenue. Once businesses expand to absorb the larger work force to meet the increased demand from a larger population, these short-term imbalances to the labor market early on will give way to increased productivity and higher wages later.

Last year, Madeline Zavodny of the American Enterprise Institute and Tamar Jacoby, President of ImmigrationWorks USA wrote in more detail how immigrants are complements to and not substitutes for native workers.

Through a propensity for entrepreneurship—immigrants “are 30% more likely to start a new business than U.S.-born citizens”—increased innovation and productivity gains, as well as a greater number of people wanting more goods and services, immigration reform would provide an economic boost to the economy and in turn help American workers.

Op-ed: Flexible, Utah-specific solution best for Medicaid

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by Marc Bennett and Andrew Croshaw (from the Chamber’s Health System Task Force) for the Salt Lake Tribune. You can find the original here. 

While Utah would not have chosen the difficult dilemma we now face, action on the issue of expansion of Medicaid coverage must be taken to respond to a significant flaw in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Why is this? Utahns are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal taxes in order to fund insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion occurring in other states. While this is neither fair nor right, it is the current reality.

So, what can we do?

As one of the best managed, most fiscally prudent and business friendly states in the nation, Utah should embrace a solution that is flexible and Utah-specific. Our business community and our citizens already benefit from a state health system that is the envy of the nation. The innovations, efficiencies and talented work force in Utah’s health care industry drive down costs and deliver better outcomes for our state.

We need a Utah solution that considers the financial resources of our state and also the health needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Our solution must avoid leaving some 60,000 Utahns without health care coverage. Failure to do so will ensure increased health care premiums for all insured Utahns and for every business in our state, as we all pay for the costs of uncovered emergency room utilization and other unpaid care.

Our community will be healthier and financially stronger as we utilize available federal dollars to provide access to health coverage for the poorest among us. This is both the right thing for our citizens most in need and the right thing for our economy.

We should pursue all available federal dollars to develop a flexible solution that strengthens a competitive, private insurance market, promotes individual accountability by those receiving assistance, and prevents the state from being left on the hook for providing additional ongoing benefits if the federal government becomes unable or unwilling to hold up its end of the bargain.

We believe these aims can be achieved through the innovative approach Gov. Gary Herbert is proposing.

The difficult choices that now lay before the Legislature are complex. Sound economic and moral principles drive good public policy.

To that end, we should advance Herbert’s proposal to keep Utahns’ hard earned dollars in Utah to care for the poorest among us while also strengthening the private health care market.

Former Official: There’s Room to Improve the U.S. Regulatory System

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Editor’s note: This article and interview is from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, originally posted here.

With the nation’s energy future hanging in the balance, now is the time to move ahead on the much-needed regulatory reforms, including streamlining the process for federal regulatory permits, according to former administration official and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, C. Boyden Gray.

“We all know the highest-profile examples, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, the Cape Wind offshore wind farm, and the government’s own Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. In these cases and others, various regulators—and outside groups, leveraging the permit process and opportunities for litigation—managed to delay the projects by years, if not permanently. But even more worrisome is the fact that there are myriad other examples, ones that do not earn equivalent public notice, but which are also very important to the nation’s economic future, especially with respect to energy development,” Gray told the Senate Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce.

Gray said S. 1397, the Federal Permitting Improvement Act, would go a long way to mitigate many of these problems. By placing OMB at the head of the new “Federal Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Council,” and designating one specific agency as the “lead agency” for each type of multi-permit project, S. 1397 would help coordinate scattered agencies and set deadlines for the various approvals needed for a given project, Gray said.

Gray also came out in support of S. 1029, the Regulatory Accountability Act. “Congress already imposes cost-benefit analysis requirements on some independent agencies, in very limited ways. Congress is long overdue to impose such a fundamental obligation on all agencies, be they ‘independent’ or ‘executive,’” Gray said.

Regulatory reform is more important than ever, Gray said, “as we experience unprecedented growth in the scope and burden of the administrative state.”

But, Gray cautioned, it is also important to keep in mind not just procedural reforms, but also substantive reforms. “Agencies wield vast powers only because Congress has delegated them such vast powers. To truly reform the administrative state, Congress must undertake serious reforms of the underlying statutes themselves, to limit the delegations of power to the agencies.”

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) also testified at the hearing in support of permit streamlining, and specifically discussed the absurdity of the 12-year permitting process that Cape Wind has gone through. He also announced that he will sign on as a cosponsor of the S. 1397, bringing the number of Democrat cosponsors to four.

Read Gray and King’s testimony here.

How are local governments funding roads?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Keeping up with rising costs and flat revenue: how are local governments funding roads?

With 43,000 miles of public roads in Utah it is hard to imagine how to keep all of the infrastructure maintained. This week on “The County Seat,” Terry Wood discusses the topic of road funding with:

• Ron Whitehead, public works director Washington County
• Jim Eardley, Washington County Commissioner
• Cameron Diehl, Utah League of Cities and Towns

What are the challenges of funding roads in Utah and what options have been discussed in the past and the present. What will the picture look like in the future?

Unemployment hits a five-year low in Utah

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

 

The beginning of March marked a great announcement from the State of Utah.

The Salt Lake Chamber joined Gov. Gary Herbert to announce that Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, according to the Department of Workforce Services. The unemployment rate in Utah hasn’t been below 4 percent since November 2008.

Currently, the national unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, which is 2.7 points higher than it is in the Beehive State.

This is a testament to the great work of Utah’s private sector business leaders for helping create jobs. In the past 12 months, Utah has added nearly 35,000 jobs to the workforce, contributing to a 2.8 percent job growth rate. Thanks to this, Utah’s economy is gaining momentum and moving towards a strong 2014.

The Salt Lake Chamber joins with Gov. Gary Herbert to make job creation a top priority. We support the governor’s plan to facilitate the creation of 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days. As of right now, Utah is over the 70,000 mark for this goal, which is ahead of pace. The Chamber also has a complimentary private sector job creation plan, the Utah Jobs Agenda. This year, Utah’s private sector is set to achieve the Utah Jobs Agenda goal of creating 150,000 jobs in five years—more than a year ahead of schedule. We will continue to make job creation a major focus.

Utah’s economy and business climate continues to be strong, thanks to sensible and stable taxes, a well-educated workforce and our investment in infrastructure. These are things we need to sustain in order to keep up this kind of progress–and with the collaborative spirit of Utah, that’s something we can certainly do.

Breaking down Utah’s caucus political process

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Didn’t have a chance to attend the caucus training at the Salt Lake Chamber this week?

The Chamber held a great caucus training on Wednesday free for anyone to attend. We had a great turnout and look forward to holding more training sessions in the next caucus cycle!

If you didn’t get a chance to attend, we want to make sure you have the information you need to participate in your caucus meeting next week. Below is an overview of the political process in Utah and an explanation of how you can participate. If you have any other questions contact the Republican State Party or the Democratic State Party.

*   *   *

Utah’s Political Process:

Step One: Precinct Caucus Meetings (March)

·     Meet with many of your local party members to elect several delegates that attend State and County Conventions.
·     March 18 for Democrats, March 20 for Republicans
·     You can now preregister to cut down on waiting line times, visit your party’s state website for more details.

Step Two: Convention (April/May)

·     As an elected delegate, you next attend your County or State Convention.
·     Delegates nominate or narrow the party’s candidates for elected offices. If a candidate does not receive 60 percent or more of the delegate votes in Convention, they move to a primary election in order to qualify for the general election.
·     Delegates also elect national delegates to attend the National Party Convention.
·     Anyone can attend Convention; only delegates can vote.

Step Three: Primary Election (June 24)

·     Party members vote on races that were too close to call at Convention.
·     Candidates that win their Primary Election advance to the General Election.

Step Four: General Election (November 4)

·     Every registered voter votes on all offices up for election, initiatives and referendums.

*   *   *

 Need more info? Have questions? Contact your state party!

Republican Party Democratic Party 

Caucus Meetings
Thursday, March 20

County Conventions
Throughout March & April

State Party Convention
Saturday, April 26
Contact
801.533.9777

Caucus Meetings
Tuesday, March 18

County Conventions
Throughout March & April

State Party Convention
Saturday, April 26
Contact
801.328.1212