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Let Your Voice Be Heard – Legislative Engagement Matters

Posted Friday, August 25, 2017 by By Chris Falco, Falco Sult LLC.

alt textAs a member of PPI / PIA, I had the distinct opportunity to go to Washington DC and lobby on behalf of the printing industry and small businesses. Over the past 15 years, I have been involved in lobbying our state legislature on many different issues for small business, so the process of running around Capitol Hill was not foreign to me.

Our delegates were there with the National Association of Manufacturer’s and had the opportunity to hear and meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Paul Ryan. After hearing them speak and talking to other lawmakers that are sympathetic to PIA, it was obvious they are on the same page about many of the industries key issues. What I found most interesting is that what you saw when they were in front of the cameras and what they said one-on-one were sometimes very different. Our legislators are constantly “positioning” for the cameras and thinking about re-election, but behind closed doors, we found they were in much more agreement on many more things than you might realize. I found that there is a lot more agreement on issues than the media leads us to believe. Those items don’t usually make the news and unless it’s controversial, you probably won’t hear about it.

I did find that when talking one-on-one with our legislators, they were very appreciative of receiving any detailed information they could on specific issues and especially the reality of how certain legislation might really effect small business. Many times, the only people they hear from are large business and special interest groups, but hearing the actual stories of how laws have impacted the small business sometimes go unheard.

I talked at great lengths with them about how we business owners are in need of skilled labor, tax relief and health care reform. Everyone seemed to be on board with the labor development needs and in fact the House passed HR 2353 (Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act) right after we finished up our meetings. Our Congressional allies made it a point to meet with the office of the bill sponsor and I’m sure that helped with the push to get it passed. The lawmakers definitely knew we had boots on the ground that week.

Tax reform was a big topic of my discussions as well, and being a CPA discussing the hardships of small businesses we represent gave them a better idea of how taxes and regulations are chocking many business owners. I emphasized that since the Great Recession, small business owners have not seen the profits they once did and are incurring much more in wage costs to find good talent, not to mention all other costs are growing, yet while not seeing a proportional increase in organic revenues. With bank financing, tighter, businesses have had to take their smaller profits and plow them back into their businesses if they wanted to grow.

One other item I cautioned them on, was that when they are looking at federal tax reform, be cognizant of how the tax cuts might impact how the feds will flow monies to the states. If they cut the federal taxes and not consider the impact on the funds they send to the states, I assured them the states will then try and plug their shortfalls by pushing taxes up to the businesses and we would end up in the same place. One example would be if they eliminate the federal estate tax. I can assure you, as many states have already done, that the states will implement their own estate tax to cover the short fall.

Finally, we did have some discussion on health care reform. I reinforced to them that the current law is not sustainable and if we don’t repeal and replace, some major fixes need to happen. They tried to argue that the big issue with current health care failing is because the current administration is not fully funding cost reimbursements to the states which help to subsidize the state exchanges, thus insurance companies are pulling out of markets. I agreed with that observation, but I reminded them that even before this administration started to do that, us business owners were experience large, double digit increases annually from the beginning. Washington has hoped young healthy people would get on plans to pay for those not so healthy. It hasn’t worked out that way and there is not significant penalty for the young adults to get on to plan. So, the insurance companies are passing that cost onto employers, and thus crippling our abilities to grow. They couldn’t argue that point so hopefully they heard me. We will see. I think no matter what happens with health care, there will be losers.

I strongly recommend that all the members of PIA get involved in the legislative process. Our national organization has a great lobbying effort run by Lisbeth Lyons and her team. They are doing an outstanding job for us, but the more we can be the face for the industry, the more our lawmakers will listen.

Chris Falco, CPA, CBI, CM&AA, and his firm Falco Sult, are a Redmond, WA-based CPA firm that are active members in the PIA. They can be reached with questions at 425-883-3111 or chrisf@falcosult.com.