We missed those of you who were unable to join us for the 2013 ESCA Federal Policy Conference and Lobby Day where we had a record turnout of 160 ESCA members and guests.
ESCA Board Chairman Greg Klein, CFO of Inland Truck Parts, opened conference events by welcoming attendees and recognizing Principal Financial as the anchor sponsor of the conference. Also of note, Greg announced that his term as Chairman will conclude in February and the ESCA Board has selected current ESCA Policy Committee Chairman, Steve Smith, as the new ESCA Board Chairman. Steve is the Vice President, General Counsel of Amsted Industries. We all thank Greg for his leadership over the past three years and offer congratulations to Steve on his new position.
Following Greg’s remarks, ESCA’s President & Executive Director Stephanie Silverman set the stage with a political update looking at the current climate in Washington. In short, the policy landscape has become even more complex because government is divided (Democrats controlling the White House and Senate and Republicans controlling the House, though the House Leadership struggles to hold the conference together to pass legislation due to a far-right contingent), unproductive, and unpopular. But at the same time, Congress must address funding the government past October 1st and raising the debt ceiling by the beginning of November. All the while, both the House and the Senate tax writing committees are working on tax reform. This all means that Congress may be looking to strike a big deal during these fiscal fights, and S corporation ESOP companies need to continue to be vigilant as Congress seeks additional revenue to broaden the tax base and lower corporate and individual tax rates.
Conference attendees were privileged to hear from three Members of Congress who are all currently playing critical roles in shaping the tax reform debate: Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI- 1). Congressman Tiberi is the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee’s tax subcommittee and a longtime champion of S ESOPs. He encouraged ESCA members to ensure that Members of Congress understand S ESOPs and noted that the S ESOP structure is “special and different, and you can just see it in the companies and employee-owners.” He even told the group that he pushed his sister to find a job at an S ESOP company!
Senator Cardin spoke during lunch where he gave a passionate speech in defense of employee ownership and retirement savings incentives. The Senator has been a staunch advocate for S ESOPs and is the lead sponsor of S. 742, the Promotion and Expansion of Private Employee Ownership Act which now has 18 Senate cosponsors.
The final Congressional speaker was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan who spoke to a packed room of ESCA members, that included many representatives from Wisconsin companies, at the Newseum. Should Ryan choose not to run for a higher office, he could potentially be the next Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Ryan talked about his support for employee ownership and speculated on the role tax reform could play in an ultimate deal to fund the government and raise the debt limit. Like Representative Tiberi, Ryan believes tax reform should focus on simplifying the code and making U.S. businesses more competitive.
While the lineup of Congressional speakers at this year’s ESCA conference was impressive, the speaker during Thursday night’s ESCA dinner topped them all. ESCA members were in awe of legendary Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward who, for almost 90 minutes, gave us an insiders’ view of Washington from Watergate to President Clinton to last year’s budget negotiations between congressional leadership and President Obama. He also was kind enough to stay after his speech to sign copies of his book, The Price of Politics, which ESCA had provided for attendees.
Thursday afternoon and Friday morning ESCA company members headed to Capitol Hill, while professional members met with officials from the Department of Labor, Department of Treasury and the IRS. The 2013 ESCA lobby day was the largest to date with 20 teams, 118 ESCA participants, and meetings with 143 House and Senate offices. ESCA members took their impactful messages of retirement savings, jobs and economic value to the Hill at a critical time in the tax reform debate.
Again, thank you to all ESCA members who joined us!