WASHINGTON (2/27/14)--Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Wednesday repeated his commitment to work relax regulatory limits on credit unions' ability to make member business loans (MBLs).
Begich said at the Credit Union National Association's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington that he would continue to be a "supporter and sponsor" of a bill designed to lift the federally mandated cap on credit unions' small business loans--currently at 12.25% of assets.
"I will twist arms of other members to sign that piece of legislation," he said. Begich is one of 18 co-sponsors of legislation--introduced in May 2013 by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)--that would raise the credit union MBL cap to 27.5% of assets (News Now May 16, 2013). The bill, S.968, was referred to the Senate Banking Committee, where it has not progressed under the chairmanship of the soon-to-retire Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).
Begich also said he wants to generally "streamline regulations for credit unions" because of their relative stability throughout the subprime housing boom and in the aftermath of its collapse in 2008.
"You are not the problem. You are not the risk," he told attendees, calling credit unions a "backbone" during the tumult.
The senator also reiterated on Wednesday his pledge to protect credit unions' tax exempt status.
He told the conference that he asks banking lobbyists, seeking to change the credit union exemption, to "keep it off the list" during meetings with him. In July, Begich, who is not a member of the Senate Banking Committee, sent a letter to Johnson and the panel's ranking Republican Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), asking that the exemption be preserved in any reform of the tax code (News Now July 30, 2013).
The senator, who is facing his first re-election campaign this November, spoke of his own personal enthusiasm for credit union membership. Begich said he opened his first credit union account at the age of 14, received his first car loan from a credit union, and said that he opened a U.S. Senate FCU account for his then eight-year-old son, who, he proudly said, now has his account number memorized. He also said that he is excited when asked as a credit union member to vote in board member elections.
Begich urged attendees to stress their member-ownership status when lobbying legislators on Wednesday afternoon and throughout the week. He argued earlier in the speech that the tax exempt status was justified because of member ownership, with savings incurred by the status spread throughout the cooperatives. The senator said this structure makes credit unions "powerhouses," and urged the audience to flaunt membership logs when consulting with their legislators.