A Double Shot for Small Business

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Taxes are going up in New Jersey, but not on boats, while the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is cheering the introduction of the PREPARE Act in Congress.

First, the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey successful defended against the repeal of the state’s sales tax cap and reduction on boats. Following weeks of meetings, legislative leaders and staff, including Budget Committee members, along with Gov. Phil Murphy, were convinced to drop a proposed repeal of the sales tax cap.

“While the $32.7 billion dollar budget does include a number of tax increases and borrowing, we’re delighted it does not include any increase in our boat sales tax,” says Melissa Danko, executive director of MTA/NJ. “We’ve assured that our New Jersey dealers will remain a force in this very competitive regional market.”

How’d they get it done? Danko and the association’s lobbyist, Rob Nixon, essentially worked daily to show the benefits of the reduction and cap to lawmakers and administrators. “We aggressively presented our case that this law, passed in 2015, not only supports and protects everyone in our boating industry, but keeps revenue in our state, provides jobs and benefits the overall economy of New Jersey,” Danko says.

PREPARE Act

Last week’s introduction in the U.S. Senate of a bipartisan bill to protect small businesses from natural disasters is being celebrated by MRAA. Officially called the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises Act, it matches a similar bill introduced in July in the House of Representatives.

According to MRAA government relations manager Adam Fortier-Brown, the PREPARE Act would allow the Small Business Administration to make low-interest, fixed-rate loans of up to $500,000 to small businesses to invest in their properties to protect their facilities, real estate and contents from natural disasters.

“If passed, this legislation would equip small businesses, including our boat dealerships and marinas, with a tool to invest in modern, disaster-resilient infrastructure so they can keep their doors open and continue to fuel job growth and prosperity in their local communities,” Fortier-Brown says. “It would be the only SBA program focused solely on small business disaster prevention. It would also take steps to expand SBA’s disaster loan program to provide more resources for disaster mitigation when repairing and rebuilding.”

He points to a joint MRAA and Association of Marina Industries study that found marine businesses need significant funding for protection from flooding, requiring an average of $260,000. Projects could include elevating buildings, constructing flood barriers or levees, dry and wet flood-proofing, yard regrading and sewer backup protections.

According to FEMA, 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster. A PEW Research Center study indicates for every $1 the government spends on disaster mitigation, such as improving existing infrastructure or elevating homes and businesses, taxpayers are saved an average of $6, which is of particular importance at a time when the economic impact of disasters has cost the United States more than $800 billion in the last decade. And we don’t yet have totals for the current flooding along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard, or from the fires raging out West.

It’s interesting to recall that in the aftermath of 2017’s historic hurricanes and wildfires, Congress provided a one-time funding of nearly $140 billion. With the increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters, policymakers are finally looking toward ways to control costs by investing in mitigation actions that reduce the risk to lives and property before a disaster occurs.

“Across the nation, natural disasters continue to grow in frequency and severity,” Fortier-Brown says. “This results in billions of dollars in damages to local communities and small businesses every year. Now is precisely the right time for Congress to invest in common-sense solutions like the PREPARE Act to make our nation’s infrastructure and economy more resilient to repeated storm damage.”

Nicole Vasilaros, NMMA senior vice president of government and legal affairs emphasizes that “Recreational boating businesses — most of which are small, family-owned operations — are among the most susceptible to the devastation of erosion, rising water levels and many additional effects of climate change, so this bill is urgently needed.”

A tip of the hat to U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) for their leadership in introducing the PREPARE Act in the Senate.

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