Infrastructure investment, taxes and trade policy were among the key issues discussed at the 2018 Washington Fly-In on March 20-22, the equipment industry’s premier public policy event. As in recent years, AED was joined in Washington, D.C., by the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA).
The event’s first full day featured a program that even the largest trade associations would be hard pressed to match. Attendees heard directly from some of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell McConnell; and AED President and CEO Brian P. McGuire.
(R-Ky.), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Updates by policy experts on issues important to the industry and the government affairs offices of John Deere, Vermeer, Caterpillar and Volvo helped get attendees up to speed on the state of play in Washington. Despite an unexpected late spring, mid-Atlantic snow storm preventing AED members from attending a White House briefing with senior Trump administration officials, participants were treated to a power-packed agenda.
After a day getting up to speed on the state of play in Washington, it was time for attendees to storm Capitol Hill. Kicking the morning off was a breakfast honoring the equipment industry’s strongest advocates on Capitol Hill, including members of the powerful House Appropriations Committee including, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), and House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee members, such as Reps. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.).
Following the breakfast, armed with knowledge from the previous day, equipment dealers were ready to advocate on behalf of their companies and the industry on infrastructure, tax, trade and regulatory policy issues. In total, AED members met with nearly 150 House and Senate offices.
According to Daniel B. Fisher, AED’s vice president of government affairs, the importance of equipment dealers visiting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill can’t be overstated. “Capitol Hill meetings both help push the ball forward on pending issues such as infrastructure investment while also laying the groundwork for future efforts,” said Fisher. “ Last year’s tax reform demonstrated that policy successes are based on a combination of direct engagement during the process, but equally important, is a strong foundation laid well in advance by dealers building relationships and educating lawmakers about their companies.”
Fisher emphasized that in addition to the Washington Fly-In, construction equipment dealers should be hosting congressional visits and learning more about AED’s political action committee (AED PAC).
Fly-In attendee Jay Nelson, president and COO of Heavy Machines Inc. and an AED Board member, echoed Fisher’s sentiments. Noting that AED’s advocacy on Capitol Hill has been worthwhile, effective and successful, he said, “AED has undertaken a more active engagement strategy with Congress that is leading to key relationships. These relationships will give us listening ears that understand and advocate for our industry on Capitol Hill as key policies are considered.”
Building of the momentum built during the Washington Fly-In, for the remainder of 2018 AED’s policy focus will be on pushing a major infrastructure investment package, advocating for policies to help address the industry’s skilled workforce shortage, providing regulatory relief to the job creators and working with Congress to make many of the temporary provisions from the recently-passed tax law permanent before expiration in a few years.
When asked about the likelihood of success, Fisher said, “Washington is an unpredictable place, even more so in recent years than in the past, so attempting to forecast what will and won’t happen on Capitol Hill is generally a fool’s errand. However, there is strong support from the Trump administration and the majority of lawmakers on Capitol Hill for most of AED’s policy priorities, increasing the chances for success this year.” Regardless without the engagement of AED and its members the industry’s legislative goals certainly won’t be reached, and in fact, a great deal of harm could result.
Look out in the near future for information about AED’s 2019 Washington Fly-In.