SEATAC, Wash. (1/29/14)--Although Washington credit unions don't face a declared battle on their tax status this year, protecting that status will be among the Northwest Credit Union Association's top state legislative priorities in 2014, NWCUA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Mark Minickiello told News Now
"It's not specifically under threat, but it's always under threat because of the financial needs of our state," Minickiello. "Even though our tax status was reviewed in 2011 by the legislature, we want to continue to educate lawmakers about the great things credit unions are doing and the money that gets returned to our members and other Washingtonians through that tax status."
Among the credit union benefits that NWCUA and credit unions will share with lawmakers:
At a credit union, the typical interest rate on a 60-month auto loan is 1.49% lower than at a bank, so the member would save about $200 per year in finance charges.
Washington credit union members collectively paid $38.5 million less in new car finance charges than bank customers in the 12 months ending Sept. 30--and saved more than $38 million in credit card interest charges.
The interest rate on a "gold" credit card is typically 11.07% at a bank, but just 10.18% at a credit union.
Last year Washington credit unions helped pass Senate Bill 5302, which among other things, changed the voting requirement of a merging credit union's board to a simple majority, in parity with the Federal Credit Union Act. However, SB 5302 did not change the voting requirement of the merging credit union membership to a simple majority, as also required in the Federal Credit Union Act.
In 2014, Washington credit unions are supporting a bill that would change the membership voting requirement to simple majority. The bill passed out of committee earlier this month. "It's noncontroversial," Minickiello said. "It will probably pass pretty easily."
Another legislative hot button in Washington is marijuana banking. Small amounts of marijuana-related products are legal for most adults in Washington. The state taxes marijuana sales and designates the revenue for healthcare and substance-abuse prevention and education.
The state of Washington is considering creating a state bank for money generated from legal marijuana sales because credit unions and banks are not currently allowed to hold that money.
"We're in opposition to a state bank for thos purposes," Minickiello said. "We think it's premature. We want to wait for guidance from the federal government. It's got to be coming soon."
Minickiello said some Washington credit unions are interested in accepting marijuana deposits. "We have some members that want to get involved--not all of our members," he said.
"Some of our members are waiting for the green light, no pun intended, from the government to get involved, but I think what we are waiting for is guidance that is more immediate than legislation at the federal level, and that is guidance from the [National Credit Union Administration], Minickiello said.