Congressman Donnelly Tells Recreation Industry Help Is on the Way

U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly (D-IN) was the special guest at the American Recreation Coalition’s February Recreation Exchange. The session allowed recreation community leaders to express appreciation for the Congressman’s vigorous efforts to overcome challenges facing America’s recreation industry. Mr. Donnelly was actively involved in the recent U.S. Treasury announcement of actions to improve consumer loan availability, and specifically provide RV loans, through a $1 trillion program known as TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility). He also actively participated in Congressional negotiations on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided a special federal tax deduction for state sales tax paid on motorhomes and motorcycles in addition to cars, and also expanded tax code provisions allowing many small businesses to apply current losses to the tax returns of past years, when they were profitable – a provision called NOL (Net Operating Loss) carryback.

Mr. Donnelly acknowledged the appreciation and told the group that, as a life-long outdoor recreation enthusiast, he is proud to assist the industry that “makes dreams come true for American families.”

Mr. Donnelly represents Indiana’s 2nd District, also known as the RV Capital of America. He was a central player in President Barack Obama’s February 9, 2009, visit to Elkhart, Indiana, where the President held a town hall meeting to explain his stimulus package. The Congressman told the group about his conversations with the President and senior White House staff, remarking that, in this time of economic crisis, it is vital to connect policy issues with jobs and employment because the government’s number one goal is to put people back to work as quickly as possible. Mr. Donnelly said that as his district makes clear, the recreation industry not only creates wonderful memories for families but provides hundreds of thousands of American jobs in manufacturing, retailing and service. The Administration needs to remember that the recreation industry is a ready and able partner in job creation, he told the group.

Representative Donnelly reminded the group that the President visited his district twice during the 2008 campaign, once with his wife and daughters. “Barack Obama forged a real bond with the people of Indiana,” said the Congressman, “and he genuinely cares about the local communities that are most impacted by the current economic situation.” Mr. Donnelly told the group that President Obama understands personally that the crisis facing the recreation industry is a lending problem and is working to reopen credit channels as soon as possible. The Congressman reported that he recently met with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who predicted that while 2009 will continue to have economic challenges, a solid recovery should be underway by early 2010. He also shared a story with the group about a hearing of the House Committee on Financial Services. Eight senior bank officials were called as witnesses – each representing a bank that has received billions in federal assistance since late 2008. He asked the bankers whether they had money to lend to businesses and consumers, and was told by each that they were indeed looking for good borrowers. Little did they know, he told the group, that he was carrying around a long list of constituents who had been denied credit recently. He said he delivered the list personally and is following through to hold the bank executives accountable.

Mr. Donnelly explained how the Federal Reserve’s $1 trillion TALF program will work, with loans through banks and others to consumers bundled through dealers and then purchased by the Federal Reserve. He was especially delighted, he said, that the TALF program had grown in size and been expanded to cover RV loans as well as floor plan financing for dealers. This will greatly assist those like the marine and RV industry that are dependent on the credit markets, he told the group. Mr. Donnelly said that rapid action is needed to help Americans purchase RVs and boats – something that traditionally occurs in the spring months. He also told the group that he is convinced that the demand for recreation products is still there. But demand will ultimately depend on both creating credit availability and restoring consumer confidence in the economy long-term.

“You have an extraordinary industry, and your best days are ahead!” Mr. Donnelly reassured the group. “The pent up demand for your products is breathtaking.” The Congressman was confident that, with the much needed relief in the credit markets, the recreation community will bounce back and that his district will be a symbol of success, with unemployment dropping dramatically from its current level of some 15%.

After his remarks, Mr. Donnelly answered questions from the audience. When asked about his willingness to continue to lead efforts to increase the awareness of recreation industry challenges in Washington, Mr. Donnelly responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” He told the group that they also have a friend in President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whom he labeled a very pragmatic individual. The White House is highly responsive to issues relating to employment and the economy, he explained, so highlighting the links between the reduced availability of loans for RV and boat purchases and the loss of jobs in their respective manufacturing plants will certainly continue to strike a chord with this Administration.

Mr. Donnelly applauded the inclusion of well in excess of $1 billion in the stimulus bill for federal agencies that host billions of recreation visits annually and further noted he would work to connect jobs in districts, including his, with visits to parks and other sites in the minds of Administration and Congressional leaders. He also noted that he expected further opportunities to aid recreation to arise in the annual budgeting process and in additional stimulus legislation. Specifically, the Congressman noted that it was very unfortunate that the sales tax provisions for motorhomes and cars had not been broadened to include towable RVs and boats – and in fact reported that he and others had believed that conferees on the stimulus bill had agreed to an expansion of this type. “We have a commitment from leadership to revisit this issue,” he told the group.

Mr. Donnelly concluded by saying he will continue to attack the burdens the recreation community currently faces, stating that the issues are personal for him too: “Your dealers and factory workers are my neighbors. To me, these aren’t just businesspeople hurting, these are the people I go to church with.”

Mr. Donnelly was elected to Congress in 2006 and has practiced law, operated small businesses and been active in community affairs and public service. He is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats and is committed to a moderate agenda that includes fiscal discipline and strong national security. Mr. Donnelly serves on the House Committees on Agriculture, Veterans' Affairs and Financial Services. The Congressman is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and its law school, and returns home each week to his family in Granger, Indiana. He may be reached at:

The Honorable Joe Donnelly
U.S. House of Representatives
1530 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3915, fax (202) 225-6798

Recreation Exchanges are hosted in Washington, D.C., by the American Recreation Coalition and feature guests who are influencing recreation public policy in America. Information on past and future programs is available at: Recreation Exchanges are made possible by the following sponsors:

American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
Kampgrounds of America
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
National Tour Association
Personal Watercraft Industry Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service