Industry is seeing many successes on the state level

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If reports from more than a dozen marine trade associations from around the country are any indication, efforts are in high gear to pursue favorable legislation for the marine industry.

Gathering at the annual meeting of the Advisory Council of Marine Associations last Saturday in Orlando, leaders of local and state trade groups shared information about their legislative activities this year and their direction looking forward. The council also advises the Marine Retailers Association of the America’s board on legislative actions and priorities.

Opening the meeting, MRAA president Matt Gruhn announced his organization’s plan to strengthen its role in supporting trade groups in their legislative efforts on the state level.

“We have seen our MRAA membership grow more than 200 percent in the past two years with more members from many states,” Gruhn said. “We believe we add value to those memberships when MRAA is ready to help MTAs, when requested, in their legislative efforts. We are ready.”

On the federal level, MRAA lobbyist Larry Innis identified key issues that the industry will have to pursue next year. Among the highest priorities will be the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act that deals with the management of the nation’s saltwater fisheries; the reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund contained in the highway bill that must be renewed by next May; the quest to repeal or reform the Renewable Fuels Standards that mandate ethanol in gasoline supplies, among others from tax reform to dredging small boat harbors.

On the state level, caps on sales tax were clearly on a lot of minds. In many respects, the pursuit has been inspired by Florida’s success in capping the sales tax at $18,000 and the studies done there in 2012. They documented that passage of the tax cap has actually produced added tax revenues of $13.46 million for Florida because boats were purchased and remained in the state instead of being registering elsewhere to avoid the tax. It also found that the average sales price for large boats in Florida increased to $907,002 — nearly twice the pre-cap average and that the percentage of sales on which no tax was collected dropped dramatically.

Encouraged by the now-documented success in Florida and states like North Carolina ($1,500 cap), South Carolina ($300 cap) and Maryland (cap at $15,000), other state marine trade associations are now seeking tax cap legislation, including the Connecticut Marine Trades Association (proposing cap at $10,000), New Jersey Marine Trades Association (seeking $20,000 cap) and the New York Marine Trades Association expected to follow suit (amount to be set).

Reports of recent successes were plentiful, too. For example, the MTA of New Jersey reported success in getting $80 million earmarked for much-needed dredging projects. In addition, efforts are under way to restore funding for the “I Boat New Jersey” from a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax.

Meanwhile in Connecticut, the CMTA was successful is gaining a titling bill and is seeking a legislative change that would refund gas taxes paid by boaters refunded at the pump instead of requiring them to go through the hassle of claiming the allowable refund.

The Michigan Boating Industries Association has a full plate. It is supporting a proposal to increase the boat registration fee (first increase in 30 years) with funding going to access and dredging needs; defending against any attempt to strip boating of its allocated 1.6 percent of the state gas tax money; succeeded in getting favorable abandoned boats legislation as well as a long-sought tax-on-difference law; and continues to call attention to the need to balance the fact that pubic marinas get dredging and other services with public monies, an unfair advantage while competing against private marinas.

NMMA South Carolina reported success in getting $1 million over two years for badly needed dredging in Charleston County and successly passed a penny increase in the general sales tax in Georgetown County to be used for dredging and road projects. That is following a proposal for mandatory life jacket wear on some inland lakes; is supporting a proposal to have electronic boat registrations; and is working on proposals to increase the allowable time for boats to remain in S.C. for 180 days (not including time in repair yards) before a use tax would apply; among other possible legislative proposals.

In New York, mandatory education (anyone born after 1996) is now law and, in addition to examining a sales tax cap initiative, the NYMTA is pursuing an increase of 90 days allowable time in state waters without triggering use tax.

Overall, these and other trade groups give clear evidence, once again, of their importance in doing things for their members that the members could not accomplish on their own. From an ROI viewpoint, the marine trade associations continue to return far more dollars in benefits to each member than the small investment in dues paid in. Every dealer should be a member of their local or state MTA.

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