Tax Credits and Lead Rule Top WDMA Agenda

March 15, 2011

Washington, D.C.—The potential restoration and extension of 25c tax credits for energy efficient products and the containment of lead-paint regulations topped the legislative priority list for the Window & Door Manufacturers Association as its members gathered here for its second annual legislative conference.

Joining again with the National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association, WDMA members received updates on a number of topics as they prepared to head to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress and regulatory officials.

 WDMA's Michael O'Brien, left, and Jeff Inks briefed attendees on the status of tax credits and lead paint regulations.

“You’re our eyes and ears,” stated Michael O’Brien, WDMA president, speaking about the potential for any change in the current tax credits. There’s no current legislation to bring back the $1,500 credit or extend it beyond 2011, he noted. “We’re trying to see if there’s potential.”

He urged WDMA members to let their members of Congress and staffers know the tax credits were effective in preserving jobs and enhancing energy efficiency, two important goals for the country that most people agree on.  O’Brien also asked members to report back and let them know how their representatives feel about such tax credits. Some in Congress are philosophically opposed to the idea—seeing such credits as the government telling people what to buy. Others simply believe “we can’t afford it,” he noted. “We need to know how they feel.”

As far as the lead remodeling, repair and painting rules, Jeff Inks, WDMA's VP of code and regulatory affairs, urged attendees to simply ask their Congress reps to help by telling the Environmental Protection Agency not to “make a bad regulation worse.” EPA is currently considering expanding the regulations to add clearance or post-job lead testing where the rules are already in effect in the residential market, and expanding the current lead paint requirements to commercial and institutional buildings, he explained.

“The bottom line is we’re fundamentally in support of regulations that protect children,” Inks stated. In speaking to representatives, WDMA members should note they are not in opposition to the initial legislation that was passed in 2008. “The original rules were supposed to protect women who were pregnant and children under six. As an industry, we were okay with that,” Inks said. "EPA has gone well beyond that.”

Noting that Congress was also hearing from children’s health groups, Inks suggested that WDMA members help staffers understand the potential health impacts of the additional expense these tests are adding to remodeling jobs. As costs of replacements go up, an old window with lead paint is more likely to remain in service, or homeowners are more likely to turn to contractors that will ignore the lead safe requirements completely.

WDMA’s O’Brien emphasized the importance of returning to the Hill once again this year, noting that there are 100 new members of Congress. “They’re not familiar with us. They’re not aware of lead rules. They’re not aware of tax credits.”

Rep. Mike Pence told attendees that reducing the federal debt remains the top priority for Republicans in Congress.   

Echoing that sentiment was Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who spoke at a Washington Briefing Breakfast for both WDMA and NLBMDA members. “It really matters that you’re here,” he said. “When you go and see the people that represent you, there’s nothing more powerful than that.”

Reducing the growing federal debt remains the top priority for Republicans in Congress, Pence said. While some argue against certain cuts, particularly when the overall economy is weak, the focus remains on reducing spending, he said. “That lays the groundwork for confidence. That’s what will make businesses willing to invest again.”

Pointing to tragedy in Japan and the tumult in the Middle East, the Indiana Congressman emphasized the need for a national energy policy, as well. “We ought to have an ‘all of the above’ strategy,” he argued.

Responding to home building industry concerns about the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Pence suggested that Republicans “don’t want to get rid of them. We want to take them off the public dole. We want to end their quasi-government status.”

As for preserving the mortgage interest deduction, something many in the housing industry consider sacred, Pence suggested that supporters should look at the bigger picture. Expressing a preference for a flat tax system, he argued that everyone in Washington should be more focused on reducing the tax burden on everyone. That would unlock economic potential that would create far more opportunities for business than the "morsels under the table."