Make Your Voice Heard
By Jason Zacher
“Few relationships are as critical to the business enterprise as the relationship to the government. Managers have responsibility for this relationship as part of their responsibility to the enterprise itself. It is an area of social impact of the business. To a large extent the relationship to government results from what businesses do or fail to do.” — Peter Drucker
Business groups across the state are developing their 2020 legislative agendas in October. Peter Drucker would say that managers have a responsibility to shape these agendas and actively participate in the agenda-setting process.
Legislating doesn't end when the General Assembly gavels out of session on the second Thursday in May. State and federal committees work on legislation throughout the fall in preparation for their return to session in the New Year. And Chambers of Commerce meet throughout the fall to determine what the business community wants us to work on in 2020.
Over the past two months, we have held more than two dozen meetings with chambers, industry groups, small businesses, large businesses, and representatives from just about every industry sector we have in the Upstate. The State Chamber has held a similar gauntlet of meetings. We collect information on the various issues raised in these meetings and then issue a wider survey to 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.
It's up to you to make your voice heard.
What will we be asking on the survey about state issues? Here's what you told us:
Workforce Barriers: It is vitally important that we continue to work on breaking down the barriers that are preventing people from joining the workforce, whether those are housing-, transportation- or childcare-related.
State Tax Reform: The General Assembly is 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.
Investments in Infrastructure: We have spent a lot of time arguing for more funding for roads over the past decade, but this year we heard a lot about rural broadband infrastructure, strained water and sewer systems, transit funding, and a lack of flexibility from local governments in upgrading other critical infrastructure.
Higher Teacher Pay: Even with last year's teacher pay increase, teachers are still making less today (adjusted for inflation) than they were in 2004. Business owners asked for higher teacher pay — and changes in how teachers are paid.
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. The guidance on this issue has been so strong over the past several years, and this issue will return to the agenda in 2020.
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 several market-based bills being considered in the General Assembly that might help the Upstate alleviate this challenge.
Your local chamber is your voice with local government, in Columbia and in Washington. Never hesitate to contact your local Chamber or the Upstate Chamber 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. If you live in the Upstate, take the survey before October 23 at www.upstatechamber.org and make yourself heard. If you live elsewhere in the state, contact your local Chamber for how you can get involved.