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LATHAM, N.Y. – If perseverance is a measure of determination to get a job done, then the New York State Credit Union League gets the gold star when it comes to sales tax exemption legislation for New York state-chartered credit unions. After more than a decade of effort by the league, the state legislature on June 23 passed measures that mirror each other -A. 8830 sponsored by Assembly Banks Committee Chair Catherine Nolan (D-Metropolitan) and S.5618 introduced by Senate Banks Committee Chair Hugh Farley (R-Capital) – that exempt state-chartered credit unions from paying New York State sales and compensating use tax, thereby giving them parity with federal credit unions. The bills also include a provision that provide an immediate exemption for federal credit unions converting to a state charter. NYSCUL VP Governmental Affairs Amy Kramer has been with the League for five years and she said the bills have been at the top of the League’s legislative agenda since then. In addition, when she asked around about how long before that the League was pushing for the bills’ passage, she was told the initiative had been going on for at least five additional years. “Nobody recalls how it all got started,” says Kramer, “but at some point state-chartered credit unions realized the disparity between themselves having to pay the sales tax and federal credit unions which didn’t. Passage of the bills have become an annual exercise for us. We started seeing a decline in state chartered credit unions over the last few years either through mergers between state-chartered and federal credit unions or as a result of charter conversion. The sales tax was the reason cited most often for the action.” Indeed, League statistics show that the number of New York state-chartered credit unions hit a peak in 1943 – 438 SCCUs – and that number has declined steadily since to its current figure – 32 as of the end 2004, with a total of 536,962 members and $3,556.8 million in assets. The number of federal credit unions has also been on the decline since 1979 – there were 1,171 FCUs then and as of the end of 2004 there were 525 with a total 3,544,503 members and $31,675.4 million in assets. The New York State Department of Taxation & Finance estimates this legislation would result in an annual savings of $3.4 million to current state-chartered credit unions beginning in 2008. “In the scheme of things we realize that’s a drop in the State’s budget, but there are many groups out there asking for things that would only be a drop in the State’s budget, and they didn’t get what they asked for,” said Kramer. So why did the State legislature pass the bill this year after so many years of lobbying effort by the League? Kramer explains that when it comes to lobbying to get a bill passed in the state legislature, “You have to reach a critical mass. After a couple of years lobbying a measure, the legislature sees we haven’t given up and assumes it must be really important to us. They test you, so you need to be a good trooper and make your case over and over again. “The crack in the wall for us this year was the legislature wasn’t comfortable doing other things for us that we put on the legislative agenda such as municipal deposits for credit unions, because that’s considered too controversial. So they did this for us. We also sounded the alarm that we were continually losing state-chartered credit unions to the federal charter and that threatened the dual chartering system in New York,” Kramer added. There are a lot of variables that determine how long it typically takes a measure to be passed, she explained. They include factors such as the political climate and whether it’s an election year, how well the League presents its case, how much help does the League get from credit unions, how well do legislators want the bill. “Everyone speculates on what will be passed and when, but obviously you’re always hopeful and keep pushing,” said Kramer. One measure the League was hopeful would have seen some action in the legislative session was a Senate “wildcard provision” measure S. 5518/A. 8641 that would give state-chartered credit unions a streamlined way of asking for additional powers. Kramer said state banks already have a measure like this, but state-chartered credit unions don’t. S.5518 was introduced by state Sen. Hugh Farley (R-44) but unfortunately the bill didn’t go anywhere. Assemblywoman Nolan sponsored A. 8641. If Gov. Pataki signs the tax exemption legislation later this year, provisions for federal charters converting to state charters would begin in 2006, and provisions for current state charters would start in 2008. Kramer said the NYSCUL intends to work hard to make sure Pataki signs the measure. She said the League has every indication his office is familiar with the legislation “because it’s been on our agenda for awhile. I’ve heard no concerns about the measure from the governor’s office, and the fact that the state legislature passed it is very positive.” -

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