PORTAGE │ U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., left Portage on Wednesday with “three pages of notes” after having a roundtable discussion where he heard Northwest Indiana Forum members’ concerns on heath care, job creation, taxes and workforce development.
During the meeting at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission offices, Coats also discussed his legislative efforts to help Hoosier job creators with his recently introduced Sound Regulation Act, which would help Indiana businesses focus on creating more jobs instead of more unnecessary paperwork.
“The best thing to do is when we represent you in Washington is to know what your concerns are and see if we can find a way to address them,” Coats said to the regional business group.
The Affordable Care Act was a concern of Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce President Rex Richards, who told Coats that maintaining health care is the primary concern of the businesses belonging to the chamber – most of which have fewer than 10 to 15 employees.
In the chamber’s case, Richards said in December it is looking at a 30 percent increase in cost for health care.
“When you look at a 30 percent increase that’s pretty difficult for anybody to absorb whether it’s a big business or a small business,” he said.
Coats said he hears the same concerns about Obamacare “everywhere I go.”
“We’re right in the middle of trying to sort this out and as you know it’s a push back and forth whether to go forward, whether to fix or repeal and replace,” Coats said. “The cards are in the president’s hands. He’s willing to make his own adjustments in order to keep the thing alive. I think it would have collapsed by this point. The president’s made 31 separate executive decisions to change the law which is a constitutional issue in and of itself. It’s very frustrating.”
Coats said some of the issues may be solved in the 2014 election if it becomes a referendum.
“If that’s the case it could leverage the ability to make some substantive changes, but right now it’s anybody’s guess which is not much comfort to you,” he said. “I wish I could tell you there are brighter lights on the horizon, but right now I don’t see it.”
Scott Nelson, president of Sullair Corp. in Michigan City, discussed with Coats the importance of research and development tax credits and incentives. Nelson said Sullair has increased its research and development budget by 50 percent but it has choices where to invest because it is located all over the world.
“We’d like to invest more in the local market,” he said. “In the past we’ve had to move a lot more of that to other places, and I’d like to find out how we could do more here. Fortunately, we’re in a great area in terms of engineering talent with Purdue being so close so that’s an area I’d like to learn more about.”
Nelson said he would like help with workforce development as it pertains to working with local educational institutions.
Coats said getting businesses an educated, skilled workforce has been identified as one of the key things needed to be done in Indiana.
Coats also told Forum members he thinks there is going to be comprehensive tax reform.
“I don’t believe it will happen this year, but the stars are lining up for it to happen for the first time since 1986 in 2015,” he said. “That’s going to affect all of you pretty dramatically and one of my and others’ goals is to address the corporate tax rate. Because we are no longer competitive with the rest of the world in terms of our corporate tax rates, and it’s putting us at a disadvantage in terms of worldwide competition.”