The Greenville Chamber has released its 2019 policy agendas, focused on increased teacher pay, state pension reform, tax reform, and ensuring all Greenville residents may participate in economic growth.
The agenda, released in concert with the Upstate Chamber Coalition, outlines the priorities of the business community at the local, state and federal levels.
Nearly 1,500 Upstate business leaders took the Chamber’s legislative survey – doubling the number from 2017. The survey followed two dozen agenda-setting meetings throughout the summer and fall with business industry groups, other Upstate chambers and business organizations, and the Chamber’s Business Advocacy committees.
“Each year, the Greenville business community is increasing its engagement in important, pro-business policy issues,” said Carlos Phillips, President/CEO of the Greenville Chamber. “Whether those issues are education, workforce, or tax reform, the business community is rallying to be the ‘sane middle’ voice to support inclusive, economic growth for the entire Upstate.”
Being the second year of the two-year state and federal legislative sessions, several of the items reflect unfinished business from 2018. Several new items made the list for 2019, including support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, increased state and local funding for mass transit and new lawsuit abuse reforms to protect small business.
The Chamber’s top state priority for 2019 is increasing teacher pay to the Southeastern average. This was a state priority nearly 15 years ago, but after achieving the goal, state teacher pay has slipped in comparison to our neighbors. When looking at cities we routinely compete with for workers, Greenville’s starting teacher pay ranked 8th out of the 10 cities surveyed. Coming in a close second is the need for the state to finish the job in reforming the state pension system to ease the tax burden on business and ensure benefits are available for people currently in the system.
“The state pension system is a black hole that threatens public finances and our local governments’ ability to provide education, infrastructure, and public safety,” said Phillip Kilgore of Ogletree Deakins, the Chamber’s 2019 Board Chair. “The General Assembly took a few modest steps in 2018, but needs to finish the job of reforming the system in 2019 to provide local government – and business taxpayers – certainty as we continue to grow.”
The Chamber’s top local agenda item for 2019 remains the expansion of Greenlink – the local transit system. The business community is calling for an immediate expansion of funding for Greenlink so the system can expand service hours and better move workers to employment throughout the county.
“Expanding Greenlink is a critical business recruitment and retention issue,” said Jason Zacher, Senior Vice President of Business Advocacy. “Mass transit is not a social service, it is critical infrastructure and should be treated as such. Greenlink is drastically underfunded compared to our peer communities across the Southeast. In a metro area our size, it is essential that we are able to move residents to work, education, and healthcare.”
The agenda was unveiled at the Chamber’s Annual Legislative Breakfast, which had more than 200 local business leaders and more than two dozen local and state elected officials in attendance. This annual event is the Chamber’s flagship legislative event, designed to connect the business community with their elected officials to discuss legislative priorities for the upcoming year.
To view the full 2019 Public Policy Agenda and Advocacy Guide, visit greenvillechamber.org/advocacy/public-policy-agenda.
Prepared by Megan Campbell, Greenville Chamber.