As President of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), I am proud that our members work hard to make their voices heard around the country. It’s especially important to do it on an ongoing basis in the nation’s capital, where lawmakers routinely consider matters that affect the electrical construction industry in a profound way. Earlier this spring, approximately 160 contractors gathered in Washington, D.C., for the NECA National Legislative Conference and Political Leadership Council Summit, which is held annually to discuss the most pressing issues that affect the industry. This conference affords contractors the opportunity to meet key congressional leaders who are working to provide meaningful solutions.
The conference is about policy, not partisanship. Members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle—including two Democrats, Reps. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania and Tim Ryan of Ohio, and two Republicans, Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois and Brian Mast of Florida—joined NECA to inform participants on the latest happenings on Capitol Hill. A series of policy and political briefings from Washington insiders supplemented the speeches. Afterward, our contractors conducted more than 215 meetings with their senators and representatives.
So what are the issues that concern NECA today? Let me elaborate on where the association stands. The primary issues we are addressing are infrastructure investment, comprehensive tax reform, repealing the Cadillac tax on healthcare plans and pension reform.
Infrastructure investment: Committing resources toward America’s infrastructure, including an aging electric grid, is essential for contractors like you, your employees and the economy. Our industry plays a crucial role in the building and maintenance of the transportation system and power for buildings, hospitals, airports and schools. Economic studies show that every $1 billion in infrastructure spending creates 28,500 direct and indirect jobs and provides American taxpayers with a high return on investment. It is important for Congress to change course and fund investments in infrastructure.
Comprehensive tax reform: High tax rates and a complex tax code hampers our nation’s competitive standing and economic growth. The resources NECA contractors spend to comply with our existing tax code could be spent on growing our companies and creating jobs. Components of any reform package should include restoring tax rate parity for all businesses, establishing top rates at no more than 25 percent, eliminating the double tax on corporate income, repealing the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and making remaining tax extenders permanent.
Repealing the Cadillac tax: NECA contractors provide quality, affordable health coverage through self-insured, employer-sponsored group plans to our employees across the nation. The Cadillac tax, an excise tax of 40 percent on plans that exceed a threshold of $10,800 for an individual or $29,100 per family, ignores important demographic and geographic factors while taxing benefits, such as health savings accounts. The tax also is creating a chilling effect on employers. Pursuing a full repeal, which has bipartisan support, makes sense.
Pension reform: Authorizing innovative composite plans to reform the multiemployer pension system remains a priority. Composite plans will provide secure lifetime retirement income for participants. The adoption of composite plans would be voluntary and subject to the collective bargaining process. No current defined benefit plan would be required to adopt these provisions. Statute currently limits multiemployer pension plans to either traditional defined benefit or defined contribution plans. Legislation must be enacted to authorize innovative composite plans, which would modernize the multiemployer pension system.
Moving forward, NECA’s national staff and I will continue to engage the stakeholders who shape the country’s policy debates. We are making progress with Congress and the White House every day.
There are ways for you to get involved, too! You can start by going to www.necanet.org/advocacy. Learn about the issues. Call or email your representatives in Congress. Get information on NECAPAC, our political action program, and how it supports the electrical construction industry. And, of course, attend next year’s legislative conference. NECA welcomes your support.