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GALVESTON, Texas – Political involvement is critical to protecting the viability of credit unions in the future, CUNA Chairman and Northwest Federal Credit Union CEO Juri Valdov told attendees at Texas Credit Union League’s 72nd Annual Membership Meeting at the San Luis Convention Center here. “The political arena is where decisions are made. It’s important to pass CURIA [the Credit Union Regulatory Improvement Act] to remove unnecessary and highly burdensome regulatory requirements on credit unions. The feeling is that it won’t pass this year, but we’ll begin our efforts anew in 2007.” In the aftermath of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight hearing last November on credit unions’ tax-exempt status, Valdov said it is critical that credit unions keep telling their stories of how they are helping their members. “The committee said, `We know you say you’re different from banks, but we want to be able to see how.’” Furthering members’ financial independence, including those of modest means, is one way of accomplishing this. Credit unions are particularly suited to take advantage of two important “pillars” in their communities – financial education and home ownership, he said. With the recent release of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s National Strategy for Financial Literacy, student financial education will garner more attention, Valdov said. He applauded the Texas Credit Union Foundation for supporting financial education and also promoted CUNA’s Home Loan Payment Relief program, which offers low-rate mortgages for first-time homebuyers. The chairman also praised credit unions’ community involvement in worthwhile causes, such as Children’s Miracle Network/Credit Unions for Kids, and in disaster recovery efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “You have made a positive statement to the rest of the country.” To combat the banking industry’s ongoing campaign for credit union taxation, credit unions must remain vigilant in communicating the “credit union difference” to legislators, Valdov continued. “CUNA will keep countering banker attacks. Their hypocrisy continues. Credit unions in the real estate market? Empire builders?” Valdov questioned, shaking his head in disbelief over recent American Bankers Association claims. “We will continue to serve our members as we always have.” “My last plea is for unity. We have 6% of the [consumer deposits] pie and yet banks want it. We can’t fight them on just the national level. We have to follow through on the state and local levels, as well.” Valdov engaged the crowd by concluding with a quote from the Matthew Santos character (Jimmy Smits) in the West Wing television show, “I’m more of a credit union kind of guy.” -

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