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Time to be legislatively aggressive

Boat sales may not, yet, be rockin’ in the Wolverine State, but the Michigan Boating Industry Association is steppin’ out when it comes to the pursuit of favorable legislation for its members.

Under the leadership of MBIA president Van Snider, the organization has been pushing hard for a tax change that would apply sales tax only to the difference between the boat’s selling price and the value of any trade in. Many states, including most of Michigan’s neighbors, already have such laws. Ohio, for example, passed its STD more than 15 years ago. Michigan has wanted the same ever since.

One might assume under the current economic conditions, getting laws passed that might reduce tax revenue for a state’s coffers would be hopeless. MBIA’s progress proves it’s not. And, it’s particularly notable since Michigan is among those states hardest hit by the recession. Still, SB 201 has just passed the Michigan Senate by a wide margin and is now headed to the House.

Anticipating that the bill might face a more challenging atmosphere in the House, MBIA is planning to marshal heavy support from all members. “It’s vital that the entire membership do its part to insure House members understand why STD should be implemented,” Snider is telling his members. “SB 201 will be positive for our state’s economy by stimulating retail sales in Michigan instead of seeing those sales go to other states, and that will create or keep jobs here,” he adds. He’s right!

As I see it, this tough economic time has at least one good side. It represents a strong opportunity for state marine trade associations to go after desirable regulatory and legislative changes that will benefit the industry in the name of economic growth and job creation. After all, most state lawmakers are faced with big budget deficits and a burning desire to avoid the political fallout of ideas such as raising taxes. That leaves them unusually receptive to proposals that could increase business, put people back to work, and thereby result in those “magic” words every lawmaker wants to hear -- increased state revenues.

Too often we assume a defensive posture making us an industry waiting to fend off undesirable legislation. But, we sell short when we don’t also proactively seek desirable legislation. I’m talking about legislated changes that reduce our costs and increase our market potential. In that regard, this is an opportune time to go on the legislative offensive and get some things done that will help our marine businesses. In fact, I can’t remember when the time was ever more favorable.

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