The mission of the Chamber's Government Relations division is to ensure local, state and federal government policies are conducive to a strong regional business climate and that community decisions adequately support quality economic growth.
82nd Legislative Session Priorities
The Austin Chamber recognizes the fiscal challenges facing the 82nd Legislature. The State of Texas has developed its position as the national leader in job creation and low unemployment through a sophisticated set of programs across the economic development spectrum. We support these programs including, but not limited to, the Tax Increment Financing Act, the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act, the Skills Development Fund, Enterprise Zones, moving image project incentives, and sales and use tax exemptions. To maintain its competitive position with a strong business climate, the Austin Chamber strongly supports the following positions:
Texas Economic Development Act: Chapter 313, Texas Tax Code
Created by the Texas Legislature in 2001, the Texas Economic Development Act enhances the state's economic development efforts especially with securing large-scale capital investment. Through 2010, economic development agreements under Chapter 313 will result in more than $47 billion of estimated capital investment. The Chamber supports maintaining and strengthening this program to promote continued investment in large-scale projects such as manufacturing, research & development, and energy.
Emerging Technology Fund
As of August 2010, the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) has awarded more than $290 million to Texas companies and universities to develop the next generation of commercial technology. The Texas Legislature created the ETF in 2005 and appropriated funding in every subsequent session. The Austin Chamber supports continued appropriations to the ETF to continue investment in high-impact, high-growth economic development for the future.
Texas Enterprise Fund
As of August 2010, the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) has contributed $397 million that successfully secured economic development agreements resulting in more than 53,600 jobs statewide with $14.4 billion of new capital investment. The Texas Legislature created the TEF in 2003 and appropriated funding in every subsequent session. The Austin Chamber supports continued appropriations to the TEF to maintain this vitally important economic development tool.
Together, the ETF and TEF maintain Texas as a national leader for business success especially in the following targeted industry clusters: Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing; Aerospace and Defense; Biotechnology and Life Sciences; Information and Computer Technology; Petroleum Refining and Chemical Products; and Energy.
Regulatory Climate and Taxes
Texas Franchise Tax
Small business success is important to the long-term economic health of the state. Maintaining a lower tax burden for these businesses is vital to their survival. The Austin Chamber supports maintaining the no tax due threshold amount of $1,000,000 for franchise tax reports due in all future years.
Immigration issues continue to be a concern for Texas businesses, foreign governments and academic institutions as they engage talent from around the world to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy. The Austin Chamber recognizes the problems that exist and agree that comprehensive action should be taken at the federal level. We have historically supported national employer-based immigration policies and we support federal immigration reform which will give employers access to a legal workforce to meet legitimate business needs in all sectors of the economy.
Given that businesses need to have nationally consistent, comprehensive immigration standards, the Austin Chamber encourages the Texas state legislators to defer from policymaking at the state level and promote continued debate and national policy development at the federal level. We are hopeful that this debate will result in comprehensive immigration reform that will address both securing the international borders and the clear economic benefit of foreign workers to the Texas economy. In the interim, the Legislature should encourage adequate enforcement of existing federal immigration laws.
112th Congressional Priorities
Entrepreneur's Bill / Startup Act – One-sheet
Support federal policy that focuses on creating jobs by stimulating high-growth startup companies.
UPDATE: 11/8/2011 – At the request of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the Austin Chamber and regional startups met with the Congressman to advise him on high-growth entrepreneurship issues in preparation for his introduction the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in March 2012, later signed into law on 4/5/2012.
UPDATE: 2/1/2012 – At the request of Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the Austin Chamber participated in the Committee's "Developing and Strengthening High-Growth Entrepreneurship" Roundtable. Click here for the webcast and transcript.
Green Cards for U.S.-Trained STEM Graduates & Entrepreneur Visas – One-sheet
- Grant green cards to foreign nationals who earn a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Ph.D. or master's degree from a U.S. university; and
- Support the creation of entrepreneur visas to attract innovative, talented foreign entrepreneurs to start a company in the U.S.
Small Business Innovation Commercialization (SBIR/STTR)
Support reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. Support eliminating the SBIR restriction on the eligibility of majority VC-backed companies to allow highly innovative VC-backed small businesses to fully participate in the SBIR program.
UPDATE: 4/7/2011 – The Austin Chamber, at the behest of House Committee on Small Business Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), testified at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Healthcare & Technology that permitting small businesses with majority VC-backing to be eligible for the SBIR program would be good for U.S. innovation. Click here to read the testimony.
UPDATE: 4/8/2011– Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced an amendment (S.AMT 290) to the "SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act" (S 493) on the Austin Chamber's behalf, seeking to allow small businesses with majority VC and private capital support to participate in the SBIR program.
UPDATE: 1/2/2012 – President Obama signed HR.1540 (National Defense Authorization Act of 2012) into law, which included: Reauthorizing the SBIR/STTR programs for a period of 6 years, ending September 30, 2017; Increasing the SBIR program allocation from 2.5 to 3.2% and the STTR allocation from .3 to .45%; and a compromise allowing small businesses with majority VC and private capital support to be eligible for up to 25% of NIH, NSF and DoE SBIR awards and 15% of SBIR awards at other agencies.
Federal Funding for R&D
Support the protection of federal funding for research when exploring budgetary cuts to "discretionary" spending programs. Federal funding for research is only approximately four-tenths of one percent of the national budget but a huge generator of business activity and new jobs.
- Avoid cuts to "basic" research funding in areas of advanced technology; and
- Designate funding for Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) programs that have not yet been appropriated monies. Federal programs that incorporate market principles and leverage public and private resources should be prioritized in a recovering economy.
USPTO Funding & America Competes
Support the USPTO gaining full access to the funding it earns from user fees to end the tax on innovation. Support the sections of the America Invents Act of 2011 (S.23) that address "the revolving fund", establish the USPTO's fee setting authority, and create three or more USPTO satellite offices.
UPDATE: 9/16/2011 – President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) which included all three of the Chamber's priorities related to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
Tax Structures Promoting Innovation & Global Competitiveness – One-sheet
Support tax structures that increase the predictability and attractiveness of the American market by employing:
- Globally competitive tax rates,
- Permanent and longer-term tax credits to stabilize incentives for innovation, and
- Targeted incentives for high priority industries.
Until these goals can be achieved, Congress should:
- Renew the R&D Tax Credit; and
- Extend the Investment and Wind Production Tax Credits (ITC/PTC).
NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP)
Support funding for new NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP) awards in the FY2012 and continue funding of on-going TIP and Advanced Technology Projects (ATP) projects.
Economic Development and Regulatory Climate
Small Business Administration (SBA) Reauthorization
Support for Small Business Administration (SBA) reauthorization. Support for the Small Business Growth Act [HR 3178], Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act (HR 4302, S 2869), and the Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act (HR 3854).
Pay-to-Play PLAs (Requiring Project Labor Agreements to Contract with the Federal Government)
Support for the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (HR 983, S 90) a bill to preserve open competition and Federal Government neutrality towards the labor relations of Federal Government contractors on Federal and federally-funded construction projects.