BISMARCK, N.D. (12/10/13)--South Dakota saw more victories for credit unions--the latest one last night--in their efforts to preserve credit unions' tax status. The Yankton, S.D., School Board made no motion and took no action on banks' resolution to eliminate the tax status of credit unions and farm credit system institutions at its meeting Monday night.
Last week, the Campbell County Board of Commissioners in Mount, S.D., did the same, as did an earlier meeting of the Vermillion, S.D., City Council.
"When we get to tell our story, we win," said Jeff Olson, vice president of advocacy and awareness of the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas. Olson and CUAD President/CEO Robbie Thompson were present at the school board meeting. Dave Wright, CEO of Services Center FCU, and a representative for Farm Credit Services spoke at the meeting on behalf of the preserving the tax status.
"One school board member said this is a political issue that a non-partisan board should not be involved in. Another agreed and noted that the board's Code of Ethics prohibited it from being involved with 'special interest,'" said Thompson after the meeting.
"So far the SDBA [South Dakota Bankers Association] has no victories on the resolution quest yet," Olson told News Now.
The presentations by bankers are among several in the state before municipal entities (Memo Dec. 9).
For example, earlier last week, the Vermillion, S.D., City Council also took no action on the issue. One council member noted that such a decision should be left up to Congress, while another said it isn't up to the council to decide whether or not a competitive disadvantage should be allowed.
Council member Kelsey Collier-Wise told those gathered that if the issue were about tax equality or getting more revenue in the tax stream, she was concerned the argument could be applied to any group with a tax exemption, including those offering tax-exempt municipal bonds (Vermillion Plain Talk Dec. 9).
CUAD's Thompson and Olson have taken "a vigilant approach as the bankers' attacks continue." Today they will attend a Brookings City Commission meeting to represent credit unions' interests. Today's meeting in Brookings will be "the big test," said Olson.
"Also we have sent a letter to every school board, courtyard and large city in South Dakota, and it appears the [Yankton] School Board has read it," said Thompson. Monday, CUAD also started running radio spots in the Vermillion and Yankton area that feature an area teacher talking about the value of the credit union tax exemption. "We are running radio ads in the Brookings area this week as well."
Meanwhile, over the past weekend, an opinion-editorial written by Thompson and Olson on the issue appeared in the Rapid City Journal (Dec. 7) and in the Pierre Capitol Journal.
"The credit union tax exemption arises from our unique structure as not-for-profit, democratically controlled cooperatives--and that structure is unchanged over the past 100 years. The tax exemption has absolutely nothing to [do] with the 'environment,' size, growth or breadth of credit union products and services--a fact clearly spelled out by Congress in the 1998 Credit Union Membership Access Act," they wrote.
They labeled the banks' attacks as "nothing more than a desire to eliminate competition and ultimately force local governing entities to choose one business over another."
The article also included Credit Union National Association estimates that the state's credit unions provided nearly $15.8 million in direct financial benefits to the state's 251,140 credit union members during the 12 months ended this past July. The benefits are equivalent to $63 per member or $120 per member household.
To read the articles, or learn more about the nationwide Don't Tax My Credit Union efforts, use the links.