Chamber Announces Policy Agenda for 2016

by Hart Nelson | Jan 12, 2016

In December the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors approved updates to the One Plan, the Chamber’s strategic vision for the region.  As part of this update, the Board approved the Chamber’s strategic objective for public policy, which we call our Agenda for Regional Prosperity. 

With our new plan in place, we will work to unite people to secure our agenda, a people-first, innovation-driven plan for equitable, abundant job creation and economic growth.  We will lead this focused agenda for change based on three core positions derived from our policy point of view – Equity & Opportunity, Safety & Security and Build & Invest.

Equity and Opportunity

Job creation and sustainable economic growth flourish with open, inclusive education, markets, and capital formation.  St. Louis will flourish by attracting entrepreneurs, innovative employers and talent and by embracing the demands of both entrepreneurial risk-taking and closing the gaps in economic mobility.  Racial and economic impacts need to be factors in policy decision-making. 

Public money should focus on community building and improving the fundamentals of community life.  When economic incentives are deployed they should prioritize talent development and capital formation and be based on net new job growth for the bi-state region rather than shifting jobs across government boundaries. The region is need of an overhaul of its economic development toolkit and approach to tax credits and incentives. 

To further Equity and Opportunity we will:

  • Advocate for policies and practices that will help close the achievement gap in higher education, particularly increasing need-based funding, which we view as being critical to this effort.  As part of this effort we will endorse a Higher Education Act reauthorization that focuses on removing barriers to access and making higher education more affordable to all
  • Champion a Missouri Earned Income Tax Credit bill to help low-income working families overcome the cycle of poverty
  • Drive the Chamber’s accountability and response to the Forward Through Ferguson report’s Calls to Action to advance a racial equity fund, reduce or eliminate unnecessary duplication of public services and offer taxpayers high-quality services at efficient costs
  • Support and expand the use of Individual Development Accounts in Illinois and Missouri, using St. Louis City Treasurer’s College Kids program as a potential project model, to reduce barriers to higher education
  • Advocate for expansion of basic medical coverage to Missouri’s low-income population to eliminate healthcare cost-shifting to employers while calling for reasonable reforms in Missouri HealthNet to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the state’s Medicaid system
  • Advocate for inclusive employment law reform in Missouri to foster an inclusive business community to attract and retain a highly-skilled workforce
  • Promote policies for global trade, especially those that boost exports from our region and attract foreign direct investment. 
  • Encourage comprehensive immigration reform and support St. Louis Mosaic Project in Welcoming Community programs to attract innovators and ensure employers have access to the best available workers

Safety and Security

It is a relevant lesson for us, as we work together to form a more perfect community, to learn from the framers of the U.S. Constitution, whose agenda for change started with “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility.”  People cannot prosper economically when they are worried about their basic safety and civil rights.  Violent crime creates individual tragedies that devastate families, affects our quality of life and makes it difficult to attract and retain the talent that drives the St. Louis economy.  Injustices from inequities spread community hurt and mistrust.

To ensure our communities are Safe and Secure we will:

  • Work with regional authorities and elected leaders to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to increase public safety in St. Louis; leverage private sector support and funding to enhance law enforcement capabilities where needed
  • Advocate for reforms in Missouri’s Use of Deadly Force statute to bring state law in line with federal standards
  • Support select PERF and Forward Through Ferguson recommendations to improve professional training standards for law enforcement officers and increase public transparency

Build and Invest

St. Louis needs significant investment in infrastructure that creates jobs, connects where people live with centers of employment and education and the broader world, ensures employers have ready access to critical utilities and freight networks and continues St. Louis’ legacy of open, high quality civic amenities. We must put our efforts into projects that result in real improvement rather than maintaining the status quo.  Not only will these projects contribute to St. Louis long-term attractiveness, in the near-term they create jobs for people and provide a dramatic opportunity for bringing new workers and enterprises into the economy.  Our needs go well beyond surface transportation, such as roads and bridges; our region needs substantial investment in transit, high-speed rail, utilities, parks and projects needed for a vibrant urban core such as competitive sports, convention, and entertainment venues. 

Traditional and historic approaches to funding and financing are insufficient to our current reality.  Funding and financing will depend on best and next practices of cost and revenue sharing across government jurisdictions and public-private delivery models. 

Build and Invest includes:

  • Convene and facilitate stakeholders to define the infrastructure needed. 
  • Create opportunities, content and expertise to support decision-makers as they understand and implement new forms of funding and financing infrastructure. 
  • Champion transformational projects that improve the transportation infrastructure for our entire region, with a particular focus on transit and connecting workers to jobs
  • Work closely with AccelerateSTL and allies across the state to increase state funding for the Missouri Technology Corporation, with the goal of leading the region in per capita investment; strengthen ties with Illinois-based incubators to support similar efforts in Metro East
  • Endorse a sustainable federal Highway Trust Fund and increase Missouri transportation funding to go beyond maintenance levels to allow for needed improvements; lead efforts to educate stakeholders about innovative models of transportation funding
  • Support the implementation of the Regional Freight District action plan to leverage growth in this critical industry sector, including rail, river and air cargo
  • Support real ethics reform in our state capitols, to improve public transparency and increase trust between our elected officials and the citizens they represent
  • Support Scott Air Force Base’s growth and status as a transportation and cyber center of excellence and ensure this critical regional employer remains competitive to attract new squadrons and missions