Regulatory relief for credit unions has been a top advocacy priority for CUNA for several years, but it can be easier said than done.
While CUNA has seen several victories leading up to 2017, including privacy notice modernization and credit union parity regarding the Federal Home Loan Bank program, CUNA is always thinking big.
To keep the big picture in mind, CUNA reorganized its advocacy staff and goals, evolving into a 360-degree approach designed to advance credit union priorities at all levels and from all directions, says Ryan Donovan, CUNA’s chief advocacy officer.
“In creating a 360-degree advocacy approach, we wanted it to be all-encompassing, attacking credit union issues at all levels—legislative, regulatory, legal—whatever is needed,” he says. “This approach gives us the benefit to take advantage of regulatory relief opportunities as they come, but more importantly to create our own opportunities and engage on as many fronts as needed to produce credit union victories.”
Heading into 2017 with a new Congress and a new administration presented a fresh opportunity for CUNA and credit unions. This led CUNA to kick off 2017 by launching its bipartisan, pro-consumer Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation.
“Credit unions aren’t, and have never been, against regulation in the financial services industry,” Donovan says. “But ‘common sense’ is the key part of our campaign. We’re seeking fixes to a one-size-fits-all regulatory regimen that treats credit unions the same as the biggest Wall Street banks—only it’s the credit unions struggling to keep up.”
Keeping our tax status
CUNA dedicates its advocacy, and its very existence, to one primary priority: defending the credit union tax status.
As a new Congress and administration took office in January 2017, priorities began to emerge that included the first major reform of the tax system since 1986.
“CUNA, with the help of the outstanding member services and products offered every day to 110 million members, has amply demonstrated how the credit union tax status is sound public policy, and that any so-called ‘loss’ to the tax base is vastly outweighed by billions in benefits to both credit union members and nonmembers,” Donovan says. “But when issues such as a total tax revamp are discussed, that means everything is on the table, making it incumbent on us to once again show that the credit union tax status continues to serve the purpose for which it was created.”
CUNA and credit unions have discussed the importance of the credit union tax status with members of the new Congress through Hike the Hill visits during the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, in-district visits, and other interactions.
As the tax bill began to round into shape, CUNA closely monitored bills as they were introduced, discussed, marked up, and voted on, all without any major consideration of changing the credit union tax status.
“While we remain confident that the vast majority of Congress recognizes the benefit of the credit union tax status, the real risk is that during the course of negotiations, as members look for ways to offset various cuts or changes, the tax status could be used as a way to scrounge up a quick $1 billion to make the numbers work,” Donovan says.
“The fact we didn’t see any real threat during the process, despite numerous banker attacks, shows how well credit union stakeholders got their message out and sustained it as the bill moved forward,” he adds.
NEXT: Legislative advocacy