WLRA Voices Industry Concerns in Washington, DC.
L-R U.S. Senator John Barrasso, Christine Hill, Alex Klein, Chris Brown, John Johnson, Brian Gallagher, Ken Barkey, Diane Shober, Jim Waldrop and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi
Last month members of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, led by President Christine Hill, attended the National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference and met with our congressional delegation in our nation’s capital.
Senator Mike Enzi, Senator John Barrasso and staff from Congressman Liz Cheney’s office were all very generous with their time as members of the WLRA explained our position on several critical issues impacting Wyoming’s hospitality industry. Below please find a review of the issues discussed.
Health Care Reform
Despite the recently failed attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Wyoming business leaders asked our lawmakers to make it easier for employers to offer affordable, robust health care coverage. WLRA members noted that the Affordable Care Act’s employer-mandate rules, which took effect in 2016, have resulted in a constant cycle of paperwork, costs and confusion for restaurant and lodging operators across the state. Your association reminded our congressional delegation that the ACA’s definition of full-time employment at 30 hours a week has forced the hospitality industry to change how they hire and staff their operations, a consequence that no one intended. Finally, we discussed how the mandate’s definitions of seasonal employment are confusing noting that Wyoming employers face daunting paperwork rules with new requirements to track and report voluminous data to the IRS each year.
Debit Swipe Fees
The WLRA strongly supported the debit swipe-fee protections, which were part of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection and Wall Street Reform Act. Big banks are currently pushing Congress to repeal 2010’s debit swipe-fee protections. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) included a repeal in his Financial CHOICE Act last year. We expect him to reintroduce this bill with the repeal soon. The WLRA reminded our congressional delegation that debit swipe-fee protections introduced much needed competition and fairness to a market where none existed before and that repealing the protections would essentially amount to a new debit-card tax. This debit-card tax would hurt consumers, small businesses and lodging and restaurant properties across the state.
H2B/J1 Work Visa’s
As immigration reform and border security remain a priority for the new administration, WLRA business leaders reminded our congressional delegation of the critical need for H2B and J1 workers. The number one issue facing many of Wyoming’s hospitality businesses is securing a fully staffed, adequate workforce, particularly during the busy tourism months. H2B and J1 work visas are utilized by numerous Wyoming hospitality businesses and we urged our delegation to oppose any attempts to further restrict or diminish these important programs.
Like nearly every business entity across the country, restaurants and lodging properties need a simpler tax system that fosters growth and investment. After working for years to set the table for meaningful tax reform, lawmakers are set to consider a significant overhaul of the federal tax code in 2017. We urged our delegation to undertake tax reform that is comprehensive; reforming both the individual and corporate tax codes. The WLRA also explained that it is essential that Congress maintain the 45B FICA Tax Tip Reimbursement. Congress developed this employer-based solution in 1993 to help capture under-reported tip income. Today, the 45B FICA Reimbursement is part of an integrated compliance system that aligns the interests of the IRS and Social Security Administration with employers and employees. The 45B FICA Reimbursement applies to the employer’s share of FICA taxes paid on a portion of tips. Restaurateurs are effectively paying employment taxes on third-party income for tipped employees. This reimbursement encourages better reporting of tips for FICA tax and income tax purposes.
Thank you very much to the WLRA members that attended this year’s NRA Public Affairs Conference. Your voice is the most important when conveying our positions to those that represent us in Washington. The WLRA greatly appreciates your time and commitment to protecting and promoting Wyoming’s hospitality and tourism industry.