ARLINGTON, Va. – The House Ways and Means Committee has broadened its efforts to measure how credit unions are serving their membership and people of modest means to include state chartered credit unions as well as federal credit unions. NASCUS received a letter from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) requesting state credit union regulators collect data from a representative sample of credit unions they regulate in their state in four areas: membership, executive compensation, credit union service organizations and unrelated business income tax. In his March 22nd letter, Thomas has asked NASCUS and the state regulators to provide the requested information by Sept. 1. NASCUS President/CEO Mary Martha Fortney said she was not surprised to receive the letter from Thomas, explaining that, “We’ve had lots of conversations with GAO and the House Ways and Means Committee staff, and from our conversations with the staff they explained how they wanted the information from the entire credit union system.” She said NASCUS intends to hold teleconferences with state regulators to discuss the congressional request, and she stressed, “NASCUS is committed to addressing the issued raised by the House Ways and Means Committee. NASCUS will certainly cooperate with the committee as we have cooperated with Congress in the past.” In Thomas’ letter to NASCUS, he referred to the data collection effort NCUA is in the process of implementing of federal credit unions at the committee’s request in response to the November 2005 hearing and noted that state chartered credit unions account for approximately 40% of the credit union industry, and like federal credit unions, are exempt from federal income tax. “Accordingly, it is important that the Committee have an understanding of how state chartered credit unions use their tax-exempt status to serve their members.,” he stated. “Congress has a responsibility to ensure that there is a sound basis for the tax exemption provided to credit unions. The information that NASCUS and state credit unions collect will be helpful in providing a better understanding of the continuing basis for the tax exemption.,” he further wrote. While most of the information Thomas is requesting NASCUS provide mirrors what the committee asked NCUA to provide (see sidebar) of federal credit unions, Fortney said it is important to notice some key differences as well. For example, she said, Thomas is not asking NASCUS the chartering and field of membership types of questions he’s asked NCUA. “I think this shows the committee understands the dual chartering system and that it would be inappropriate to asked certain questions of state regulators because they don’t apply,” said the NASCUS president. Fortney said she didn’t anticipate that state regulators would have difficulty collecting the information Thomas has requested. Some of the information such as the number of credit unions, their assets and charter types, “is readily available, every state regulator has this information,” she said, adding that, “the 48 state regulators are asked for this kind of information all the time from their state legislators.” Still, if it becomes necessary for NASCUS to ask for an extension on the Sept. 1 deadline, Fortney said, “I need to know if the committee will be reasonable. If we need an extension I would hope they’d be reasonable because NASCUS is going to cooperate with their request,” adding that while the questions state regulators are being asked to provide information on are similar to those asked of NCUA with about the same deadline, NCUA has been working on their assignment since the early part of 2006 and even late 2005, so they’ve gotten a four-month head start. “Our goal is to work with them, and I would hope their goal is to work with us. We’re going to provide objective and factual information to Congress,” said Fortney. As to whether Thomas or the House Ways and Means Committee is “targeting” credit unions through their data requests, Fortney doubts it. “I think Congress wants to understand if credit unions are using their tax-exemption to serve their members. I don’t think he’s targeting state regulators or NCUA,” she said. “I don’t think Congress’ oversight is inappropriate if they determine it’s appropriate on a specific issue. That’s they job,” Fortney said. -

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