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FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR DAVID LONG

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This week, Senate Republicans announced our JOBS Plan, a legislative package to create high-paying jobs in Indiana. The plan was amended into House Bill 2008 in the Senate Finance Committee and will move to the full Senate for a vote during the week of April 7th.

Indiana needs jobs now. We can't afford to wait 10 years to see results. I'm proud of what the JOBS Plan will do for Hoosiers. The JOBS Plan provides about the same amount of funding for economic development as the Governor's proposal did, but without incurring the extra expenses and risks associated with tobacco securitization. Securitizing tobacco settlement dollars as a source of economic development funding means selling off future payments from the state's share of the tobacco settlement agreement in order to get an up front payment today. It is an expensive process, though it would raise some serious dollars to work with today. The Governor's economic development plan has this as its centerpiece.

However, this is no longer a viable option after the recent announcement that tobacco company Philip Morris may not be able to make its April 15 payment to the states (as a result of a recent Illinois judgment in a lawsuit that netted the plaintiffs around $25 billion and the plaintiff's attorney $1.7 billion!). The Senate Republican plan therefore takes on added importance. Here are the key provisions:

While our primary focus continues to be high-tech job growth, the JOBS Plan is broad-based and reaches all areas of the state.

$40 million in funding over the biennium to the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund

I-Light Acquisition (fiber optic infrastructure for high-speed data access and communications for the entire state)

$25,000 grants to each county with an economic development office

$10 million for the Emerging Technology Grant Fund to provide a source of matching funds for technology

A Government Efficiency Commission to investigate and recommend ways of cutting government waste

A property tax deduction and an income tax credit for businesses that use coal combustion byproducts to manufacture recycled components

100 percent property tax deduction for aircraft owned by air carriers with headquarters in Indiana

New tax credits designed to promote production of ethanol and bio-diesel fuel

The JOBS Plan recognizes that our cities and counties need to be partners in economic development. Local government has done a good job of managing hard times with very little help. The proposal includes a stimulus for counties experiencing high unemployment by providing incentives for industrial development in distressed counties in a program similar to the sports development authority. We believe that if government can work to attract sports teams, it can certainly work to create new jobs in struggling areas of our state. The plan also provides new funding for the rural development council and value added grants.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a historic tax restructuring plan that provides a solid foundation for economic prosperity and job growth. We are already seeing promising signs from that legislation. The JOBS Plan gives the Department of Commerce $1 million to get the word out to companies across the U.S. that Indiana has restructured its tax system and is a good place to consider for new business development and expansion. There has been some valid criticism that the Department of Commerce has done little if anything to advertise the fact that our State now has a pro-growth tax system that should encourage new investment and job growth in Indiana.

Lastly, the JOBS plan calls for bringing together a group of the brightest, most successful business and political leaders in our state to establish a blueprint for rebuilding our state economy. To be successful, you need a solid, workable plan, and we've been lacking one from the current Administration for years.

The JOBS plan brings hope that we can finally put together an economic strategy that will work, and bring our State rapidly into the 21st century. I believe it will help put Indiana back on the right track by building a stronger, more modern economy that will generate better, higher paying jobs for our current and future workforce.

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