Federal Budget Provides Some Relief for Local Government Programs

The programs impacting local units of government in the federal budget were all preserved, or saw small increases in the budget Congress recently approved. The budget overall increases discretionary spending to state and local governments by 4.5%, $24 billion, to a total of $492 billion. Some key local programs that saw flat funding or slight increases include TIGER grants and public transit “new starts” program, CDBG, Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs, and the COPS program.The budget funds the federal government through September 30, 2014. The President is expected to present his FY 2014-15 budget to Congress some time in March.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org

Expand Your Influence: Apply for a National League of Cities Policy and Advocacy Committee

Have you ever wanted to engage more in federal policy? Now is your chance! The National League of Cities is accepting applications for their full Policy and Advocacy Committees. There are several committees to choose form, including Community and Economic Development; Energy, Environment and Natural Resources; Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations; Human Development; Information Technology and Communications; Public Safety and Crime Prevention; Transportation Infrastructure and Services. You do not need to be a  member city of NLC to participate in the full committees (you do need to be a member to serve on each Steering Committee). The full committees meet at NLC’s two major events each year – the Congressional Cities Conference and the Congress of Cities and Exposition. If you are interested, the deadline to submit your application is Friday, January 24th. To apply, click here.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Federal Government Making Changes to How Communities Deal with Volunteer Firefighters Under the ACA

Recently, several articles have appeared that reference a “glitch” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in which communities with more than 50 employees will be forced to provide coverage for volunteer firefighters. Since this came about, Treasury and the IRS have reviewed the information and just released a statement, saying they will be providing rules soon that addresses this unintended consequence. The release from Treasury can be found by clicking here.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Congress Set to Finish Appropriation Bills This Week

Congress is back to work after their winter break. Just before the holidays, they passed a two-year budget agreement that lifted the sequester on discretionary programs that were set to go into effect if no action was taken. Now, they have until January 15th to pass all the appropriation bills necessary to outline how those set funding levels will be divided up. There is no agreement yet but negotiations seem to be moving along and are being held closely to the vest by House and Senate leaders. One issue that was not resolved favorably in the budget negotiation was the Build America Bonds (BABs) subsidy payments. So the reduction in those payments will continue. We will update you this week on how the budget breakdowns unfold.

Summer Minnick is Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminick@mml.org.

House Passes Federal Budget Agreement, Senate Should Vote Today

The US House of Representatives passed a budget agreement on their last day of session last week, entitled the Bipartisan Budget Act, on a 334-94 vote. This budget agreement set the spending levels for FYs 2014 and 2015, and is the beginning of the end of shutdown deadlines. However, Congress still has to pass actual appropriation bills by January 15th to avoid the next shutdown as that is when the current Continuing Resolution expires. The spending levels, as passed, are $63 Billion over the levels set by sequenstration for both years. The Senate is expected to support the legislation today. With this action, Congress has begun to get back to the typical budget process, rather than legislate through a series of contuing resolutions.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908.0301 or sminnick@mml.org

Federal Budget Conference Committee Holds Hearings

The joint House and Senate Conference Committee on the budget is having hearings to negotiate the 2014 federal budget. The deadline to reach an agreement is December 13. However, as has been the case all year, significant differences remain between House Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA). There was some discussion at the first hearing that there might be small scale agreement put in place that would provide relief from sequestration-driven budget cuts set to go into effect mid-January. The League will continue to update you on federal budget progress as the discussions move forward.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached nat 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Congress Ends Federal Shutdown and Extends Debt-Limit

The House and Senate passed, by wide margins, HR 2775 which funds the federal government through Wednesday, January 15, 2014 as part of a continuing resolution from the current FY 2013 levels. In addition, it also extends the debt-limit through February 7, 2014. The Appropriations Act is retroactive to October 1st, the day the shutdown began. Now that Congress has provided a few month reprieve until budget debates heat back up, the focus will resume again to other priorities including federal tax reform – which we’ve been engaged with in order to preserve federal tax exemptions on municipal bonds.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or smininck@mml.org.

League Visiting Congressmen Camp and Levin’s offices in DC This Week

This week the League will be in Washington DC to meet with Congressman Camp and Levin to discuss the critical nature of retaining the federal tax exemption on municipal bonds. Congressman Camp is the Chairman of the Powerful Ways and Means Committee and Congressman Levin is the ranking member, so both are in powerful positions on this issue which is heating up since tax reform has been tied to lifting the debt ceiling in the next couple of weeks. We will also be urging them to support the Marketplace Fairness Act which would bring sales tax collection parity to online retailers, generating hundreds of millions of lost revenue to Michigan. The bill passed the Senate this spring.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Federal Government Shutdown, Uncertainty for Local Government Leaders

Congress was unable to pass a Continuing Resolution to maintain existing funding levels for the federal government last night, putting a shutdown in place. It is not clear how long the shutdown will last, or even how specific the impacts will be in each state or each community. Last night the White House held a conference call with federal department heads to explain some of the impacts. National parks will close, housing and small business loans will stop being approved and many federal employees will either be furloughed or unpaid until a budget extension is passed, just to name a few. When it comes to specific local government programs like CDBG or transportation programs, the White House said the funding that was committed would still be there, but the staff who need to approve the spending for those projects may not be. So, the best answer to any questions is to reach out to your local federal department contacts directly to see who is working and how it will impact your federal projects directly.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

Federal Internet Sales Tax Parity/Marketplace Fairness Making Progress in House

The quest for internet sales tax parity made another stride late last week, when House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Goodlatte (R-Virginia) released a set of guiding principals on the tax collection issue, which are listed below. Earlier this year, the Senate passed the bill, S. 744, and sent it to the House. However, Rep. Goodlatte has indicated that he wants to develop a new “simpler” bill than S. 744 or H. 684 – which is the House version of the Senate-passed bill. This is still a significant step forward on the issue, which many thought wouldn’t get any action on the House side. Please ask your Congressional Representative to ask Chairman Goodlatte for a hearing on this issue. While exact estimates are hard to come by, Michigan is expected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars from this tax which goes uncollected.

House Judiciary Committee Principles on Internet Sales Tax

  • Tax Relief – Using the Internet should not create new or discriminatory taxes not faced in the offline world. Nor should any fresh precedent be created for other areas of interstate taxation by States.
  • Tech Neutrality – Brick & Mortar, Exclusively Online, and Brick & Click businesses should all be on equal footing. The sales tax compliance burden on online Internet sellers should not be less, but neither should it be greater than that on similarly situated offline businesses.
  • No Regulation Without Representation – Those who would bear state taxation, regulation and compliance burdens should have direct recourse to protest unfair, unwise or discriminatory rates and enforcement.
  • Simplicity – Governments should not stifle businesses by shifting onerous compliance requirements onto them; laws should be so simple and compliance so inexpensive and reliable as to render a small business exemption unnecessary.
  • Tax Competition – Governments should be encouraged to compete with one another to keep tax rates low and American businesses should not be disadvantaged vis-a-vis their foreign competitors.
  • States’ Rights – States should be sovereign within their physical boundaries. In addition, the federal government should not mandate that States impose any sales tax compliance burdens.
  • Privacy Rights – Sensitive customer data must be protected.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.