AUSTIN, Texas (9/13/13)--The Cornerstone Credit Union League has had great success in Texas advocating for credit unions' tax status with a tool that highlights congressional support of credit unions and their tax status. It also shows that credit unions are informed about the legislative process and are closely monitoring events surrounding the debate on tax reform.
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The league publishes a brochure, "Taxation and Credit Unions: Where do your lawmakers stand?" every two years with statements supporting credit unions and their tax status from Texas' governor, lieutenant governor, and all 38 of its members of Congress. Each statement is accompanied by the delegate's official photo.
The brochure, released in August, is distributed to all 465 Texas affiliated credit unions, said Tom Haider, Cornerstone's executive vice president and chief advocacy officer. In fact, one of the league's staff is in Washington, D.C., today, visiting members of Congress and handing out the brochures with a cover letter thanking the lawmaker for supporting credit unions.
When asked how the league managed to get positive statements from 100% of Texas' representatives, Haider described the process as much like "herding cats." The league started early--in March--in contacting each official. Many had provided statements of support in a similar brochure two years ago. The league sent those statements, asking if the member of Congress still subscribed to that statement or wanted to issue a new one. With new members of Congress, the league circulated the previous brochure to show what other lawmakers had said.
"They are told the brochure is sent to all credit unions in their district. We use it in conjunction with Project ZIP Code to show them how many credit union members are in their district," Haider said. "It helps lawmakers see that it's a good idea to provide a strong statement." The strongest tax-status comments are highlighted in the quotes.
"The purpose is to help our members of Congress appreciate that their view on taxation is a critical issue to our credit unions," Haider said.
The brochures also help when credit unions meet individually with their representatives back in the districts. "When a congressman is at a luncheon meeting with a dozen credit unions, it helps to be able to share the brochure and say, 'here's your statement," with their thanks."
It is easy to slip into a sense of awe when visiting a congressional office and let the congressman steer the conversation. "This is a valuable tool that helps give confidence to credit unions in those meetings. It shows we are informed and aware about what is going on in D.C., and that we're watching," he said.
Garnering strong statements of support from key House Ways and Means Committee members is critical because any tax legislation will go through that committee.
The league succeeded in getting strong statements from committee members and U.S. Reps. Kevin Brady in District 8 and Kenny Marchant in District 24.
"I believe that credit unions play an important role in our communities and are major contributors to the national economy, the financial system, and the communities they enter, and the members and families they serve," said Brady.
"They provide lending opportunities to small businesses, families, and many hard-working Americans that would not otherwise be available. For these reasons, I strongly support the tax-exempt status of credit unions because they serve as not-for-profit banks."
Marchant said, "I was a champion of credit unions for 18 years in the Texas State House of Representatives, and I remain one today as a U.S. Congressman. Credit unions are unique in that their sole purpose is to serve the financial needs of their members, as opposed to maximizing profits. Any taxation of these financial institutions could result in an end to the important services they provide. Therefore, I do not support a change of any kind in the status of credit unions as tax exempt."
Other strong statements of support came from U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (District 35) and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, who serves on the Senate Finance Committee, which will oversee the tax issue in the Senate. Check the resource link to see their comments and those of the other Texas representatives.