By Jason Zacher
Vice President of Business Advocacy, Greenville Chamber
When school is back in session, it is easy to ignore our legislature when it’s out of session. When the General Assembly and Congress are on recess, it appears nothing is going on, but nothing is further from the truth.
State and federal committees work on legislation throughout the fall in preparation for their return to session in the New Year. And your Upstate chambers meet throughout the fall to determine what the business community wants us to work on in 2018.
Your local chambers are very busy, too. Over the past two months, we have held more than three dozen meetings with chambers, industry groups, small businesses, large businesses, and representatives from just about every industry sector we have in the Upstate. We collect information on the various issues raised in these meetings and then issue a wider survey of our investors. This month, that survey will go live so you can make your voice heard. You may go to upstatechamber.org and take the survey up until October 23.
What will be asked on the survey? Here’s what you have been telling us this fall.
Pass Workforce Re-Entry: Expanding the available pool of workers is a critical need if we are to expand our economy. This year, we came close to passing expanded expungement legislation for low-level, non-violent offenders – with the support of law enforcement. This legislation is ready for passage in the Senate, after clearing the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Fix the Pension Reform: We need to keep our promises to our state retirees, and the current employees who are counting on a pension. The actions taken in 2017 will slow the bleeding, but our pension system needs to be shored up so it is no longer a black hole for local budgets.
We Need More Workforce Housing: As our metro areas grow, and more people want to live in the urban centers, the workers that are essential to moving our economy are being pushed out. There are a number of market-based bills being considered in the General Assembly that might help the Upstate alleviate this challenge.
State Tax Reform: The General Assembly and Congress are both working on tax reform. The Chamber is for a simpler and fairer tax system for business – notably for our smallest businesses and entrepreneurs. Our concern at the state level is that tax reform is being considered along with business license reform, pension reform, and other tax bills. We have asked the General Assembly’s leadership to consider the total impact on business before passing several seemingly unrelated pieces of legislation.
Federal Tax Reform: The tax reform story continues in Congress. Tax reform seems to have momentum at the Federal level, and we have voiced our support for several of the proposals on the table. Our investors support cutting the corporate income tax to make it more competitive with other countries. In addition, small businesses and entrepreneurs have asked for relief for the pass-through income they claim on their personal income tax returns.
Help DACA Recipients: At the beginning of September, businesses told us the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was a state issue: How can we ensure these 7,000 South Carolina residents can get state certifications to work? This position was universally supported at every meeting we held. President Trump’s order to wind down the program, and plea for Congress to act, turned this into a Federal issue. Though the program’s creation was controversial, polling has shown strong support for these young adults – who are in the United States by no fault of their own. We will be asking our investors how we should proceed as a Coalition, though the Greenville Chamber supports Senator Graham’s efforts for a Congressional solution.
Support Nominations and Repeal Regulations: Over the past number of years, the Coalition has opposed a number of executive and regulatory actions taken by the Obama Administration. Our investors tell us they continue to support rolling back many of these anti-business and anti-job regulations, ensuring the full operation of the Export-Import Bank, and providing more fair representation on a number of executive boards and commissions (such as the National Labor Relations Board).
Your local chamber is your voice with local government, in Columbia, and in Washington. Never hesitate to contact your Chamber or the Coalition about policy issues that matter to you and your business. We can’t advocate for you if you don’t tell us what you need. Take the survey this month and make your voice heard!