As part of the AGC National & Chapter Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. AGC of Washington leaders Tom Zamzow (Granite Construction) Pat McGarry (Manson Construction) and Steve Isenhart (Tiger Construction) joined AGC’s Executive Vice President David D’Hondt Government Affairs Director Rick Slunaker and lobbyist Duke Schaub in seeking support for construction industry issues from the state’s congressional delegation. The group met with House members and both Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
“Congress particularly on the House side seemed more partisan than I’ve seen it in past visits” noted Zamzow. “The upcoming elections are the big reason for that: House Republicans think they have a good shot at being in control soon and the House Democrats seemed back on their heels a bit.”
Among the issues the AGC group discussed was tax policy and infrastructure investments and a common theme was the uncertainty the construction industry is dealing with. Congress has contributed to this uncertainty by postponing decisions on the Bush tax cuts which are about to expire the estate tax law which expires at the end of the year and the Highway Bill which continues to operate without a long-term reauthorization.
“With regard to transportation funding some of the Democrats pointed out that with more Republicans in the House funding will be harder to get and they encouraged us to talk about that with Republicans” said Zamzow. “We did and many are supportive of funding. Rep. John Mica of Florida the leading Republican who might be chairing the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee soon favors tolling for added capacity and greater use of public/private partnerships.”
Issues AGC is pursuing (click the links for more background info from AGC of America):
Ensure total repeal of the three-percent withholding tax. In 2010 federal state and local governments will be required to withhold three percent from all payments on government contracts. Construction businesses have net margins before income taxes averaging less than three percent; therefore the withholding will be a significant hit on net income.
Ensure total repeal of the Form 1099 reporting requirements. The new healthcare reform law requires business owners to fill IRS Form 1099s for virtually all business-to-business transactions for services and goods they make equaling $600 or more in a year – a massive new burden with increased paperwork and regulatory compliance costs.
Support permanent reduction to the estate tax on family-owned businesses. In 2001 Congress made only a partial and temporary fix to the Death Tax creating great uncertainty about it after the law expires at the end of this year.
Support relief for troubled multi-employer pension plans. The majority of multiemployer plans suffered significant losses as a result of the financial crisis and may require considerable contribution increases – and these plans are funded entirely by employers.
Oppose card check. Proposed legislation would create a fundamental shift in labor policy by allowing “card check” rather than a secret ballot election to decide representation when organizing a union.
Oppose government-mandated labor agreements. Government-mandated PLAs force union contractors to work under rules which are different than their usual contract terms which have been negotiated by government bureaucrats rather than labor contracts negotiated between employers and workers. Plus they negatively impact small companies nonunion companies and disadvantaged businesses.
Reauthorize multi-year Highway Bill. The lack of certainty that comes with not having a multi-year program forces states to be very conservative in their project planning and design which significantly delays construction.
“It’s important for Members of Congress to hear directly from constituents particularly those whose businesses are impacted by the decisions Congress makes” said D’Hondt. “While we were warmly received and Tom Pat and Steve gave excellent real-world explanations of the impact of current issues it was clear that Members of Congress wanted to make few policy commitments with the elections looming.”
Zamzow praised the collaboration among the AGC chapters. For example the Inland Northwest Chapter and its Executive Director Wayne Brokaw have excellent relationships with Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers who helped the AGC group secure the meeting with Rep. Mica of Florida the senior Republican who is very influential regarding transportation and infrastructure issues.
The National & Chapter Leadership Conference is an annual AGC event which brings Chapter leaders together to discuss best practices in addition to meeting with Members of Congress to address AGCs top legislative issues.