What’s in Store for the 117th Congress?
2020 was a tumultuous year for us all between a global pandemic, recession, and hotly contested and divisive election. At ACCA we are looking ahead towards the 117th Congress, which will span from January 3, 2021 to January 3, 2023, and what it might bring. At the time of writing, it appears as though the Democrats will control the White House and retain a 3 to 7 seat majority in the House of Representatives while Republicans will hold a 1 or 2 seat majority in the Senate. Given such razor thin margins and divided control of the houses in Congress, any policy that is passed will almost certainly need a broad base of bipartisan support. This is not necessarily bad news for contractors though. Many of ACCA’s priorities in Congress have historically gained bipartisan support. Two of such policies (Workforce Development and Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives) will be highlighted in this article.
America needs a workforce that will allow us to remain competitive in a modern, global economy. Contractors know firsthand the importance of career and technical education (CTE), especially as it concerns the skilled trades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there will be 115,000 job openings by 2026 in the HVAC-R industry alone. Democrats and Republicans alike have acknowledged that a well-equipped and well-trained workforce is a necessity for the United States.
According to the Biden campaign, his Administration plans to invest $50 billion in workforce development, which would devote special attention to community colleges and apprenticeships. One area where Biden has deviated from the Trump Administration’s stance on workforce development is in respect to unions. Biden has made it clear that he plans to strengthen unions overall and stated in specific that he will encourage community colleges to partner with unions because they “oversee some of the best apprenticeship programs throughout our nation.” The Trump Administration has very publicly tried to decouple apprenticeships from unions through the Department of Labor’s “Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs” (IRAPs), with the stated goal of streamlining the apprenticeship process by encouraging more private companies, particularly small ones, to offer and participate in apprenticeships.
In Congress, bipartisan groups like the Future of Work and Middle-Class Jobs Caucuses have championed career and technical education and the skilled trades as essential to our economy in the present and future. It’s clear that the need for real, effective workforce development, particularly in respect to the growing skills gap, transcends party lines. It’s not controversial and should really be common sense for anyone that has been following along. Moreover, this means there is an excellent chance that it will be on the 117th Congress’s agenda.
Note on Workforce Development: In July 2018 President Trump established the Pledge to America’s Workers, which aimed to expand programs that educate, reskill, and train American workers with the requisite skills to be successful in today’s labor market. To date 452 companies have signed the pledge (over 40 of which are ACCA members), pledging career training, education, and advancement opportunities for over 16.3 million workers. ACCA pledged 75,000 opportunities for American workers which we are actively working to fulfill through our contractor education and training services. It’s not yet clear whether the pledge will be sticking around for throughout the Biden presidency, but it would not be surprising to see some type of similar workforce development initiatives if it does not.
Energy Efficiency Tax Policy
ACCA has historically fought for the implementation, expansion, and extension of various energy efficiency tax credits, deductions, and programs which include (but are not limited to): 25C credit for homeowners, the 45L credit for developers, the 179D deduction for commercial units, as well as the HOPE4HOMES program which would contribute $500 million to support online contractor training while also establishing a $6 billion rebate program for energy efficiency upgrades.
Energy efficiency incentives have typically received a broad base of bipartisan support because their benefits are multi-faceted. Most obviously, they cut down on energy consumption. This simultaneously cuts emissions while also reducing our reliance on foreign energy sources—thus addressing both national security and environmental concerns. Said policies also help consumers (aka voters) put more money in their pocket by way of lower energy bills and offset costs of equipment and installation. As far as contractors are concerned, they help to drive business.
In the 116th Congress, ACCA worked on energy efficiency tax policy with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in both the House and Senate. It’s our sense that, like workforce and CTE issues, there is a broad and growing base of support for these programs because of the undeniable benefits that they provide. We will continue to push for their implementation, extension, and expansion in the 117th Congress.
What does this mean for ACCA and its members?
It means that we are confident that we can make real progress on issues that affect our members over the course of the next two years. Obviously there be other issues and opportunities that arise (such as PPP loan forgiveness and simplification as well as COVID-19 liability protection, which were covered in the last edition of ACCA magazine), but it is encouraging to know that we have a sound base of support and allies in both the House and Senate that will help us push for policies that will benefit ACCA members.
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