Chamber Pres. speaks out against hidden taxes, unfunded mandates in health reform

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Editor’s note: This post is taken from prepared remarks made by Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie at the Utah State Capitol.

Good morning. I’m grateful for the opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the business community on this important issue.

The Salt Lake Chamber is Utah’s business leader. We have members in all 29 Utah counties and we represent 7,700 businesses and over half the jobs in our state.

The Salt Lake Chamber stands in opposition to tax increases—particularly hidden taxes and unfunded mandates.

In the 2012 Public Policy Guide, the Chamber declares as a statement of principle, “we support bold action to contain unsustainable health care costs.”

Federal law requires Utah to choose an essential health benefit package this year. Our choice will have long-standing and far-reaching consequences.

Special interests are already bombarding legislators with demands to cover an ever-expanding range of issues, and essentially demanding they lock them in for good. These unfunded mandates would cripple businesses’ ability to cover even the most essential health benefits and they would stifle economic growth.

Business bears the burden of providing health coverage—not only for Utah workers—but for their families as well. It is a significant responsibility and not a small contribution.

In 2008, the business community, led by the Salt Lake Chamber, signed what is known as the Health System Reform Business Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

In it we state, “businesses have the right to ask our government to work with the private sector to define an essential benefit package that will cover preventive, primary and emergency care. Although defining a basic benefit is complicated and difficult, it is an important step in achieving health care coverage for all Utah residents, encouraging individuals to be wise consumers of health care and allowing competition to control costs.”

Unfortunately, federal health reform focused on increasing access to an already unsustainable system while failing to address the costs.

There are more people sharing the same size pizza and leaving the deliveryman to pay for it all.

We urge members of the House and the Senate to keep at the forefront of all discussions regarding the establishment of Essential Health Benefits the understanding that mandating more coverage amounts to nothing more than a hidden tax increase on the businesses that pay for the coverage.

They say facts are stubborn things, and the fact is… mandating more coverage will ultimately be the same as mandating no coverage… because business simply cannot continue to foot the ever-increasing bill.

A year of decisions to propel the Utah economy

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Editor’s note: This post contains prepared remarks from the news conference presenting the 2012 Public Policy Guide.

Lane Beattie:

2012 can be—and we believe it will be—a remarkable year for our state.

In just a few months, downtown Salt Lake City will celebrate the opening of the City Creek Center. Our transformation from fortress malls to a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, urban center will be complete.

Our commitment to public transit will continue to pay off as we open two new TRAX lines, one to Draper and one to the Salt Lake City International Airport.

The I-15-CORE project, the largest state funded public works project in our state history, will also be completed this year—much to the pleasure of the residents of Utah County.

2012 will mark a new beginning for the Salt Lake City International Airport. When it is complete, we will better be able to welcome visitors from the world to our state.

We will welcome some 55,000 new Utahns to the world, as our state continues to be one of the fastest growing in the nation.

2012 also marks the tenth anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games—perhaps the greatest event in our state’s long and rich history.

This year the Salt Lake Chamber will also celebrate its 125th anniversary.

Most importantly, in 2012, we also begin our second full year of economic growth since the Great Recession.

Today we release our 2012 Public Policy Guide. This guide lays out the business community’s priorities for the year. The guide was presented this morning to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. We will deliver a copy to every member of the Legislature and other key officials later today.

The 2012 Public Policy Guide is available on our website at slchamber.com.

2012 is a year of decisions. We all know this is an election year—and a big one at that. In a few months, Utahns will assemble at caucus meetings to elect delegates. Later in the spring the delegates will choose the names that appear on the ballots in June and November. And in November we will elect a senator, four members of the House of Representatives—including our new 4th district, and vote on 91 seats in the State Legislature. We will choose a governor, a Lt. Gov. and an attorney general, as well as a state treasurer and auditor. A majority of seats on the state school board are also up for election.

But the biggest decisions we will make in 2012 will not take place in a voting booth. If we make the right decisions, 2012 will be seen as a time when we charted the path to more prosperous times.

2012 must be the year we decide to embrace optimism. Optimism for our economy that has been growing for over two years now. Optimism for job creation as our unemployment rate declines. Optimism for a brighter day that is no longer far on the horizon, but within our grasp.

2012 is the year we decide to put the Great Recession and the Grueling Recovery behind us.

2012 must be a year in which we continue to pursue the elements of the Utah Jobs Agenda. Our economy grew by more than 30,000 jobs last year. Just this morning, our unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent, and we are now two-and-a-half points below the national rate. Utah’s economy is growing at more than twice the rate of the nation as a whole.

2012 is the year we decide to protect and build on our investment in mobility. We will not jeopardize the work we have done over the past decade; we must decide to maintain what we have built and to add to it.

Health care costs continue to climb at an alarming rate and threaten the livelihood of all Utah families. Let this be the year we make decisions to firmly establish incentives that increase the level of care and not the level of cost.

Clean air is critical to public health and to the health of our economy. Business must do its part and we support efforts to preserve Utah’s unsurpassed natural beauty and the air we breathe.

As we mark the opening of the 2012 General Legislative Session next week. We call upon our elected officials to decide to make 2012 a banner year for our state.

- We must decide to be civil.
- We must decide to create jobs to help our unemployed and our underemployed.
- We must decide to be innovative and invest in both public and higher education.
- We must decide to be leaders in immigration reform and in our support of state’s rights.
- We must decide to be actively engaged in our government.

Our 2012 Public Policy Guide outlines our position and priorities. Additionally, we are focused on five big decisions we will face this year. I’m joined today by five business leaders, each will speak briefly to these points.

Civility – Todd Wolfenbarger
My name is Todd Wolfenbarger, I’m the president of The Summit Group.

2012 must be the year we decide to be civil—in our dialogue and our interaction with one another.

The Salt Lake Chamber supports civility in word and in action. Too often, people with differing opinions say and do unkind and disrespectful things. As the voice of business in Utah, we believe civility must be a guiding value in public discourse. We commit ourselves to respectful discourse and behavior toward all people. We pledge to do our part to help make Utah a more welcoming, inclusive 
and caring community.

This year we can decide to build stronger partnerships—to collaborate on great ideas—and to do together that which we cannot do alone.

Jobs – David Golden
My name is David Golden, I’m the chair of the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors and Executive Vice President and Manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking’s Mountain Division.

We must decide to focus on job creation to benefit Utah’s unemployed and our underemployed.

We stand ready to work with our elected officials to build on the momentum of our growing economy. One year ago, this Chamber laid out a private sector plan to create 150,000 jobs over five years with the first year’s goal of 18,000 jobs. We not only met that goal, we exceeded it by 25 percent. We continue to support the elements of the Utah Jobs Agenda.

We stand with the majority of our legislators in opposing a general tax increase. We support Governor Herbert’s proposal to eliminate the structural budget deficit. And we ask the Legislature to improve the regulatory environment so that businesses can put Utahns back to work.

We support the restoration of the six million dollars cut over the past three years from the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative. And we support an additional ten million dollars in life science tax credits that will boost an industry that contributes 15 billion dollars in revenue to the state.

Education – Molly Mazzolini
My name is Molly Mazzolini. I’m a partner at Infinite Scale.

We must choose to improve education in our state. We take grate pride in doing more with less, but the time has come to increase the level of investment and innovation in education. By the close of this decade, no less than nine out of every ten Utah third and sixth graders must read at grade level and be proficient in mathematics. For our economy to reach its full potential, 66 percent Utah adults must hold a college degree or skilled trade certificate.

We must choose today to embrace the Prosperity 2020 movement, we can decide in 2012 to truly make education an economic advantage for our state.

Years from now, let our children look back at 2012 as the year when we put their education at the top of our priority list. Let this be the year we decide to put them on the path to enduring prosperity. Let this be the year we make all students college and career ready. Let this be the year we recognize the critical role science, mathematics and engineering will play in the future economy—and let’s teach it to every student.

Now is the time to decide the strength our workforce.

Leadership – Ron Jibson
My name is Ron Jibson, I’m the president and CEO of Questar Corporation and the public policy chair of the Salt Lake Chamber.

Utah is a leader. We actively seek to tackle our own challenges. We must continue to foster this spirit of independence and self-sufficiency.

We must continue to address our broken immigration system. Our state is now looked to as a leader in this area. The Utah Guest Worker Law is a model for the nation but it is not perfect. We must continue to refine it and we support efforts to improve it but it should not be repealed.

Ultimately, immigration is an issue that requires a federal solution. Let this be the year our federal delegation works in concert to push for real reform.

Civic engagement – Carol Hunter
My name is Carol Hunter, I’m vice president of Rocky Mountain Power.

2012 must be the year we all take an active role in our democracy. We have a unique system in our state. On March 13th and 15th, Democrats and Republicans will respectively, elect state and county delegates.

Fifty years ago, 78 percent of Utahns voted. That number has fallen to an unacceptable level and now only one in two registered voters will bother going to the polls to participate in our most sacred civic duty.

2012 must be the year we dismiss passivity in our civic responsibility and it must be the year we all play a role in making our aspirations our reality.

Lane Beattie:
We have faced a great challenge and we have risen to meet it. Smart decisions had us better positioned for the economic downturn and smart decisions during the downturn have us positioned to a truly remarkable 2012.

Our future is in our hands. Let us decide today to make the most of the opportunities that lie before us.

Accolades roll in as unemployment drops again

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

This is getting to be a habit.

On the same day our state’s unemployment rate dropped to six percent, Utah also picked up another accolade from a respected organization.

For the fourth consecutive year, Utah has been named no. 1 for economic outlook by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Utah’s ranking was based in large part on the low tax rates and the business-friendly climate.

Utah unemployment is now 2.5 percent below the national rate and the state’s economy is rowing at more than twice the rate of the nation as a whole.

You can read the story in the Deseret News here.

Or download the entire report here.

Chamber rolls out 2012 Policy Guide, hosts legislative leadership

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

At a CEO Roundtable this morning, Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie presented the 2012 Public Policy Guide to House Speaker Becky Lockhart and Senate President Michael Waddoups. It has become an annual tradition for the Chamber president to present the business community’s policy agenda to legislative leadership.

Beattie told the group of about 25 business leaders that in order to continue the growth of Utah, we must make important decisions in 2012.

-A decision to be civil
-A decision to focus on jobs
-A decision to lead
-A decision to invest and innovate in public and higher education
-A decision to engage

Both Speaker Lockhart and Pres. Waddoups expressed their appreciation for the working relationship between the business community, led by the Chamber, and lawmakers. They said this session that relationship will be important as they work on issues including education and the budget.

Later in the morning, The Chamber held a press conference regarding “Decision 2012” and its Public Policy Guide release.

You can read the news release here.

Utah’s economy is growing, education key to long-term prosperity

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Increased investment in education is key to the state’s continued economic growth according to a group of the state’s top economists who spoke at the Utah Economic Review this morning. Members of the Utah Economic Council believe the state will see moderate economic growth this year.

“We are going to face a chicken-and-egg decision,” said Kelly Matthews, emeritus economist with Wells Fargo Bank, outlining the decision between waiting for revenue to increase before investing in education or investing in education to strengthen the economy. “We must be careful to maintain our reputation as a state with a young, well-educated and highly-productive workforce.”

“There are danger signs,” said Steve Kroes, president of Utah Foundation. “We are in the top 20 for states with people holding degrees—but we were in the top five. We need to continue to invest in two areas, one is infrastructure and the other is education.”

There is good news for the Utah economy, which has created over 30,000 jobs in the past twelve months. With a state economy growing twice as fast as the nation as a whole, the unemployment number has dropped to 6.4 percent, more than two points below the national figure.

“Job creation is the key to economic recovery,” said Juliett Tennert, chief economist in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (GOPB). “If every new business in Utah created two new jobs, we would overcome the problem.”

Utah’s projected growth is a positive sign, but there are forces that could hamper it. The European debt crisis could impact growth in the U.S. especially for states with high export numbers. Utah’s merchandise exports have doubled in the past five years.

“The U.S. will feel some pain from the situation in Europe,” said Richard Evans, assistant professor of economics at Brigham Young University. “Utah is like a boxer that can take a punch and if we get hit by some European trade problems in the U.S., it’s not going to be catastrophic here.”

Darin Mellott, a senior research analyst with CBRE, agrees with Evan’s assessment. “The big question is, what happens to the financial ties we have with Europe if we have a collapse? There is a domino effect.”

Another looming threat, gas prices in Utah are currently the lowest in the nation but an increase is probable in the coming months.

“I don’t think the current gas prices in are sustainable with crude oil at $100 a barrel,” said Matthews. “If we see gas prices go up, there’s a concern about consumer confidence and consumer spending.”

GOPB also released the 2012 Utah Economic Outlook. The Salt Lake Chamber and Wasatch Front Economic Forum hosted the event.

Governor, Utah Economic Council to headline Utah Economic Review tomorrow

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

We hope you will join us as the Salt Lake Chamber and the Wasatch Front Economic Forum host the annual Utah Economic Review tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. at Little America Hotel.

Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss the 2012 Utah Economic Outlook and Utah’s top economists will discuss the issues impacting the nation and the Utah economy.

“There’s so much to cover,” said Natalie Gochnour, executive vice president and chief economist at the Salt Lake Chamber. “From the European debt crisis, to job creation, to energy and housing, there is real value for our business leaders to have access to economic analysis from the state’s top economists.

The Utah Economic Council (UEC) provides economic information, peer review and analysis to the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors. Seven of the nine members of the UEC will take part in a moderated panel discussion:

Natalie Gochnour, Salt Lake Chamber
Richard Evans, Brigham Young University
Steve Kroes, Utah Foundation
Kelly Matthews, Wells Fargo (emeritus)
Darin Mellot, CBRE
Juliette Tennert, Utah Governor’s Office
Alan Westenskow, Zions Bank

Those attending the event receive a copy of the 2012 Economic Outlook, produced by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. You can still register for the event by clicking here.

Papa was a Rolling Stone

Friday, January 6th, 2012

The Utah Compact, a document declaring five principles to guide Utah’s immigration discussion, has been a big success by any measure. Not only did it change the tone of the debate in our state, it has since become a model adopted by dozens of other states around the country.

It has also landed Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in Rolling Stone magazine.

In the section entitled, The Quiet Ones: 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done, Shurtleff is lauded for his support of a more pragmatic approach to immigration reform.

Rolling Stone writes: “Shurtleff has confronted the challenge posed by his state’s undocumented workforce through an initiative called the Utah Compact: a blueprint for “compassionate” immigration reform that calls on the federal government to act, but in the meantime urges local police not to go after illegals, opposes policies that break up families, and recognizes immigrants’ positive roles as workers and taxpayers.”

Read the full story here.

Preview of the legislative session

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Our executive vice president of government relations, Wesley Smith, has penned a preview of the upcoming legislative session in this month’s Utah Business magazine. You can always pick up a copy of Utah Business at the Chamber offices, or you can read the full article here.

Making this year’s session even more intriguing than usual, 91 of the 104 legislators are up for election and several have left the Legislature in the past few weeks to focus on running for higher office.

In his article, Smith looks at three policy areas where legislation can have a big impact on the economy: taxes, education and immigration.

Capitol Club expanding scope

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Just announced, the Salt Lake Chamber is expanding the scope of the Capitol Club and we’ve named the 2012 chair and vice chair for the program.

Launched in 2010, the Capitol Club is comprised of Utah business leaders with a keen interest in policy issues affecting the business community. Members engage top policy and business leaders to gain insight on the most pressing issues impacting the community. This year, events will also include an emphasis on sharing business and career development expertise.

Aaron Call, regional vice president of G&A Partners, will serve as the 2012 chair of the Capitol Club. G&A Partners is a licensed professional employer organization and human resources outsourcing provider. Call has been a member of the Capitol Club since its inception. He takes over for outgoing chair Anne Marie Gunther of Vivint.

“As a member of the Capitol Club, you can’t beat the access you get to the key decision makers in our state,” said Call. “With an increased emphasis this year on career development and counsel from the top business leaders in the state, we will provide an even greater value for our membership. I’m very excited about the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Call will serve a one-year term as the chair of the Capitol Club. Angie Welling, director of public relations at Love Communications, will serve as vice chair. Welling previously served as director of communications to Gov. Gary R. Herbert.

“There is a real value to this type of setting with the business leaders who are key decision makers and run businesses in our state,” said Welling. “Capitol Club members are able to build relationships while gaining a stronger understanding of the issues that impact our economy, which is a true benefit for members and for the community long-term.”

Capitol Club membership is available by invitation of the chair. Members pay an annual fee. For additional membership information, contact us at 801.364.3641.