HVAC contractors will face key legislative battles in the 110th Congress, but the overwhelming victories by Democrats on Nov. 7 does not mean an end to every piece of pro-business legislation, according to Charlie McCrudden, ACCA’s director of government relations. McCrudden spoke during a live, online analysis of post-election analysis for ACCA members and media two days after the mid-term elections.
“House Republicans had a working majority, which meant they could afford to lose a few votes, but did not have a working majority in the senate," McCrudden said. In 2007, Democrats will control the Senate by 51-49, and the House by a majority of 229-196.
In spite of the losses, McCrudden has a positive outlook, because in politics, anything can happen. “I’m optimistic about the 110th congress,” McCrudden said. "We have opportunity to make new friends. If we engage them, we’ll have relationships that will build over time. There will be 55 freshman in the House: 41 Democrats and 12 Republicans. In the House, a majority of the freshman have served in their state legislatures, which makes it easier for them to understand how the process works." McCrudden said passage of the Association Health Plan legislation (AHP) is ACCA’s top priority.
“Health care coverage is the number one concern of small business owners in America.
"The rising cost of health care coverage is something everyone is keenly interested in, and some small business owners have seen their premiums rise 10% to 25%.”
McCrudden says AHPs would allow small employers to pool their resources across state lines through associations such as ACCA, to increase their buying power, and allow them to compete in a way similar to much larger employers.
“A Congressional Budget Office study has found that this could decrease premiums by up to 25% in some cases,” McCrudden said.
“If this bill makes it to the floor, they need to know our viewpoint: that small businesses are really hurting due to increasing health insurance premiums. In some cases, employers have lost some of their best employees due to better health care offered by competitors."
McCrudden said he hopes for a permanent repeal of the estate tax. “It’s an onerous law for small business owners, because it forces them to deal with a tax liability at the time of a passing of a loved one,” McCrudden explains.
“It’s something the Republicans have been looking to repeal for a long time. By 2010, the exemption amount will be zero, and there will be no effective tax rate on an estate you inherit. However, in 2011, this repeal comes back at 2002 levels, where the exemption amount is $1 million, and the marginal tax rate goes back to 50%.
“Assuming they phase it back in in 2011, the loss to the treasury in tax revenues goes down. Everyone fully expects Congress to amend the law to make it permanent. But what they will probably do is raise the exemption to $5 million per person and $10 million per couple, and lower the marginal tax rate to an amount that would be equal to the capital gains tax rate.
“We need to help people understand how the estate tax works and the harm it does to small businesses.”
As a way to boost their popularity for the 2008 elections, McCrudden said the Democrats could steal the estate tax and the AHP bills from the Republicans.
“Because of the compromise that was potentially passable in a non-election year [which Republicans let slip away], the Democrats could pass these and claim victory when they campaign in 2008.”
The Cool and Efficient Buildings Act (HR1241) would reduce the 39-year depreciation holding period on HVAC equipment to 15 years. Its key benefits would be to provide an incentive to commercial building owners to replace older equipment, and serve to benefit energy conservation and the environment.
“Accounting lobbyists on the Hill can’t believe a 39-year depreciation is still in place, because there is no incentive for anyone to replace anything,” says McCrudden.
According to McCrudden, that bill is ready to be introduced again by Congressman Peter Hoechstra (R-MI).
“We only lost five co-sponsors due to defeats this November,” said McCrudden. “With a coordinated grass roots lobbying effort, we can get 52 co-sponsors right away, build it up to 100, and then present it before the Ways and Means Committee and see if they can move the bill forward, probably as part of a larger package. This bill would be agreeable to many of the Democrats.”
The House will have 55 freshmen members in 2008, comprised of 41 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Now’s the time to start communicating with them, McCrudden said.
“The new members may not understand how you do your job; they may not understand the things you think about. This is an opportunity to voice our concerns.”
“Put on your ACCA or contractor hat, and go in professionally, not personally. Say, ‘this is who I am, I represent xx employees, and we have these concerns.’
"Build a relationship, and remember, it’s professional, not personal.”
McCrudden also urged conractors to join the ACCA Political Action Committee (PAC).
“It takes an average of $1 million to run for Congress, and it has to come from somewhere,” he says.
To get involved in ACCA’s grassroots lobbying efforts, visit ACCA’s Grassroots Action Center, at www.acca.org/govt.