LBM dealers will urge members of Congress tomorrow to support home retrofitting incentives, fight Democrats' health care legislation and support permanent estate tax relief, according to talking points distributed by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) in advance of today's start of its Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference.

Meanwhile, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), which is holding its spring meeting jointly with NLBMDA and the North American Building Material Distribution Association (NBMDA), issued talking points that stress tying tax credits for window and door purchases in last year's economic stimulus bill to 2010 Energy Star standards; supporting modifications to Homestar, the Obama administration's latest energy retrofit incentive program; and providing permanent estate tax relief.

NLBMDA backs "effective energy-efficiency retrofitting incentives," such as those proposed in Homestar, the program proposed last week by the Obama administration (story) that's popularly known as "Cash for Caulkers." But the association cautioned that any federal program giving incentives to people for making energy-efficient retrofits to their homes "must enable retailers and contractors of all sizes to fully participate in the program, and ensure that small and independent retailers are not put at a competitive disadvantage." This emphasis stems in part from concerns that Homestar could end up benefiting solely the big-box stores and not independent LBM dealers.

NLBMDA also used its support of job-creating energy retrofit programs as a reason to call for Congress to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to delay enforcement of a rule setting new standards for renovating, repairing, and painting homes where there's a danger of dust from lead paint. The rule is scheduled to take effect April 22. NLBMDA joined with several other groups last week in urging that delay (story), arguing that EPA lacks the adequate preparation needed to enforce the change.

As for health care, NLBMDA recommends Congress "start over on meaningful health care reform that lowers costs and increases small-business access to quality health care for our employees." It specifically dislikes sections in President Barack Obama's proposal that would mandate businesses issue IRS 1099 forms to every company from which it buys at least $200 in goods and services, and an increase in the Mediare Hospital Insurance trust portion of the payroll tax to 2.35% from 1.45% on wage or self-employment income over $200,000 for individual returns and $250,000 for joint returns. What tax credits exist for small business are too narrowly crafted to expire too soon, NLBMDA adds.

Estate tax relief is the hardy perennial in NLBMDA's garden of Congressional wishes. In 2001, Congress voted to phase out the estate tax over the coming years and repeal it entirely in 2010. But that action expires on Dec. 31, and unless Congress acts, the estate tax will return in 2011. At that point, estates over $1 million will face a 55% tax rate.

"The building supply industry is comprised of many multi-generational, family-owned businesses whose continued existence is at risk if the estate tax is not permanently reformed before it returns at unacceptably high levels in 2011," NLBMDA says. It urges permanent estate tax relief, and barring that, a permanent move toward a $5 million exemption level, indexed to inflation, at a tax rate of 35% or less.

WDMA's No. 1 issue concerns the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which among other things provided tax credits for the purchase of doors, windows, and skylights that met certain energy efficiency standards. However, the qualifying language in that act "caused confusion for consumers and retails and reduced the credit's effectiveness at boosting job creation," WDMA said. It urges that the credit should be tied to 2010 Energy Star standards, which vary by region, "rather than the arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach mandated under ARRA." The Senate already is moving in this direction.

WDMA, like NLBMDA, supports consumer incentives for retrofits like Homestar. But it said a draft of the Homestar legislation now in the Senate ought to be tied to 2010 Energy Star rules. And related legislation for commercial and multifamily buildings needs to include doors and skylights, it added. Finally, WDMA joined with NLBMDA in seeking delay of the EPA's lead rule.