March 2010 : Government Affairs


Government Affairs

MCAA Convention Recap

Matthew B. Keelen and Michael J. Falencki

Building on the success of 2009, attendees at the MCAA Convention in Las Vegas last month experienced demonstrations, presentations and various seminars, in addition to all that the city offered. And importantly, the legislative review/preview gave the MCAA a number of priorities to pursue.

Among the hot topics included discussion over the status of the estate tax, life cycle costing, 3% withholding tax, and the expected “jobs” bills.Both the House and Senate plan to push multiple jobs bills, aimed at kick-starting the economy and creating jobs. The estate tax is rumored to be in play, with the House passing language that would further extend the estate tax at its 2009 levels, which calls for a $3.5 million-per-person exemption and a 45 percent top rate. Some Senators, notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, are pushing for a more generous estate tax proposal that calls for a $5 million-per-person exemption, indexed for inflation, and a 35 percent top rate.  The MCAA will continue to join the efforts of other small business associations to push for the most generous estate tax provisions.

MCAA members soon will meet with the Department of Defense Under Secretary for Installations in Washington, D.C., to discuss the issue of life cycle costing for military facilities. This is an opportunity to change policy to help promote the use of more masonry in military construction.

Finally, in the context of these jobs bills, the MCAA will push to include the 3% withholding tax repeal, arguing that such a withholding would negatively impact small business operations. Should the withholding be repealed, small businesses will have the certainty of federal payments and will be able to plan their business accordingly. The MCAA will work with the lead sponsors of the legislation, Congressmen Kendrick Meek (D-FL) and Wally Herger (R-CA), and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), to devise a strategy to include the repeal in a jobs bill.

Prospects for passage of a comprehensive healthcare bill and cap-and-trade energy bill appear to be fading, as Congress inches closer to election season. However, some leaders in Congress seem focused on “doing something,” regardless of the political cost, so we will continue to monitor any developments that arise from the Healthcare Summit the President called for Feb. 25.

The legislative committee also received a strategic election preview of the evolving political dynamic in the House and Senate. It is clear that Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood, and much of the anger has been focused on Democrats. Fighting for their political lives, many Members of Congress may be more receptive to proposals that will help the economy, which means helping small business, and the MCAA must position to take full advantage of the legislative and political climate in Washington.Members of the MCAA PAC Board also spent an evening with U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian of Nevada, who is leading the Republican primary and leads current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in recent polls. Tarkanian presented his thoughts on the current Congress, as well as insight on how to reduce government involvement and return the economy to market-based principles.Moving forward, Congress will be active on jobs bills and the annual appropriations process, seeking to get large and “must-pass” bills done before the summer months, when legislation will slow and attention turns to the elections.

Given the potential flurry of legislative activity at this point in the year and continued bold agendas from the Administration and Congress, the MCAA must be vigilant in combating bad policy and identifying opportunities, such as 3%, estate tax and life cycle costing. If the industry can show how they are protecting and adding jobs to the economy, and acting in a sustainable, green manner, the MCAA can have much more influence in shaping legislation beneficial to our industry and organization.

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