As a somewhat sports-crazed society, one of the annual traditions we look forward to every year is the NCAA basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. Following the championship game, there is a moment I look forward to that is the highlights of the tournament played to the tune, “One Shining Moment” by David Barrett. Through this visual review of heartbreaking and soul-lifting moments of the tournament, we are reminded of the importance of each and every step in the journey toward victory.
For those of us who labor to maintain and expand our affordable housing programs in Congress, this challenging atmosphere was evident in the lead up to a Senate Finance Committee hearing Aug. 2. The Committee charged with marking up the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012 (the tax extenders package) took us on our own “edge of the seat” journey, as they undertook what was for our industry the first critical opportunity to extend the fixed 9 percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) past the current placed-in-service date of Dec. 30, 2013.
As it stood before the hearing, the 9 percent fix was not included in the legislation. It would take a concerted effort by our lead sponsors, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), as well as bipartisan support from members of the Finance Committee, for it to be added to the extenders package as an amendment. If we failed to be included in the package, it would be highly unlikely that the fixed 9 percent LIHTC would be extended. This would be our first opportunity to gauge the success of our efforts to rally our industry and educate members of Congress on the importance and success of the LIHTC program.
The calls went out to state agencies, associations, developers, practitioners, and local officials to immediately contact the key members of the Finance Committee, specifically Republicans, and work to gain their support for the Cantwell/Snowe amendment. Everyone needed to be off the bench and working together toward our collective common goal. We needed this win to get to the next round, or the game was over.
The flurry of activity that took place leading up to the Aug. 2 hearing was as exciting and nail-biting as any sporting event. Would preparation prevail, or would our efforts fall just short, leaving us staring at the clock with questions of how and why? When the congressional buzzer sounded on Aug. 2, grown men and women through our industry were jumping for joy (myself literally), as the committee had voted, and the amendment was included in the extenders package.
But our journey to final victory is not over by any means. This is round one in a long series of nonstop advocacy for a vote yet to happen in the full Senate. From there, hopefully we are off to the House Ways and Means Committee and full House approval, which will be an even greater challenge.
We do not know when or even if these votes will take place, but what we do know is that industry advocacy from outside of Washington was key to our first round win and will be absolutely critical for the success of the fixed 9 percent LIHTC issue and, ultimately, tax reform. It is a testament to our industry that we are actively working together toward our final goal.
Inevitably, each round we will face will bring its own sinking and soaring moments that will be “maddening,” but we must remember that advocacy, at all levels, will be the key if we are to have our own “One Shining Moment.”
David Gasson is the executive director of the Housing Advisory Group and a vice president at Boston Capital.