Industry Priority Issues in 2020
To encourage investment, job growth, and development and production of more metal castings in the United States, AFS advocates on behalf of its members to urge elected officials to champion policies that create a globally competitive business environment, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, and keeps the U.S. economy strong.
The 2020 AFS Policy Priorities, developed in consultation with the AFS Government Affairs Committee and companies spanning the entire industry supply chain, identified five areas of focus in 2020: infrastructure, trade, safety, tax, and energy and environment.
Metalcasters play a critical role in the nation’s infrastructure network. AFS is advocating Congress to provide increased, long-term funding for improvements to the nation’s transportation, water, energy and other critical infrastructure.
The U.S. faces a more than $740 billion backlog in much-needed highway and bridge improvements and nearly half of America’s major roads are in poor condition. The country also faces a large shortfall in funding for ports, dams, levees, airports, broadband, energy, and water systems.
Metal castings are a vital building block for key components used in construction equipment, trucks, oil and gas pipelines, water works, buildings, railroads, and more. More than 40% of all metal castings are dedicated to infrastructure.
With the current highway bill (the FAST Act) set to expire, and the Highway Trust Fund approaching insolvency, AFS is working to advance the following goals:
Address the long-term solvency of existing federal infrastructure funding accounts that focus on rebuilding the nation’s bridges, roads, waterways, railroads, and energy infrastructure.
Include greater direct federal infrastructure investment and efficiencies to accelerate federal permitting processes.
Complement and strengthen existing tools, such as Private Activity Bonds, that successfully deliver infrastructure investments at the federal, state, and local level.
Ensure materials for infrastructure projects are produced in the U.S., requiring all iron and steel used to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure is produced in the United States, including metal castings.
Reinvest in our nation’s water infrastructure, including EPA’s Drinking and Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) passed a permanent “Buy America” provision from Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) that would rebuild America’s crumbling drinking water infrastructure with American-made iron and steel.
The bipartisan reform from Baldwin and Braun was included in drinking water legislation, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, that passed alongside water resources development legislation, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. The legislation passed the Senate Committee with bipartisan support in May.
“I strongly believe American workers should build our infrastructure with American products, and taxpayers’ money should not be spent to support foreign workers. We need to put Wisconsin manufacturers and workers to work rebuilding our nation’s crumbling water infrastructure and they deserve a permanent commitment from Washington that rewards their hard work,” Senator Baldwin said. “This legislation provides a long-term commitment to American manufacturing and ensures that critical drinking water projects will help create American jobs and use high quality American iron and steel.”
AFS strongly endorsed Senator Baldwin and Senator Braun’s provision making permanent the iron and steel Buy American standard in EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund included in the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.
“More than ever, supporting domestic manufacturing by purchasing American-made castings for these critical drinking water infrastructure projects across the nation is sound policy, keeps American taxpayer dollars in our economy, and reinvests in the U.S. manufacturing base, creating jobs at all levels of the supply chain, including in Wisconsin and Indiana,” said Doug Kurkul, CEO of AFS.
The Baldwin/Braun reform, the Made in America Water Infrastructure Act, requires 100% American-made iron and steel be used in water infrastructure projects funded by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The DWSRF is a federal-state partnership that acts as an infrastructure bank to help ensure safe drinking water in all 50 states and territories. Between 1997 and 2018, the DWSRF program provided more than $38.2 billion in low interest loans to more than 14,000 projects. This reform would require all projects to use American-made iron and steel. Eligible projects include improving drinking water treatment; fixing or replacing old pipes; improving the source of the water supply; replacing or constructing finished water storage tanks; or any other infrastructure projects needed to protect public health.
“As we invest in our nation’s water infrastructure, American taxpayers expect—now more than ever—that the iron and steel products incorporated into these taxpayer-financed projects will be melted, molded and made in America by American workers and the foundries and mills that employ them,” said Neenah Foundry’s Municipal Sales Vice President Craig Wenzlick. “On behalf of Neenah Enterprises of Neenah, Wisconsin, our deep appreciation goes to Senator Baldwin and Senator Braun for their leadership in securing a permanent procurement preference for American-made iron and steel products for drinking water infrastructure.”
The push for an infrastructure package that has eluded the country for years continued in June, when Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan calling for an increase in funding to repair roads and bridges while expanding broadband access in rural areas.
AFS also signed onto a letter with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and other manufacturing associations urging Congress for an infrastructure investment package and to pass a surface transportation reauthorization ahead of the September 30 deadline.
AFS supports vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws and urges leaders to press China and other nations to end government subsidies and other market-distorting practices. In 2020, AFS is supporting:
Aggressively enforcing U.S. trade laws against dumping, improper country of origin markings, subsidies and other market-distorting policies.
Defending the U.S. ability to apply non-market economy methodology to remedy injurious dumping.
Curbing subsidies to state-owned enterprises.
Strongly monitoring import and transshipping to protect against unfairly subsidized castings.
Strongly monitoring import and trade enforcement for effective USMCA implementation.
AFS and its members share the critical goal of ensuring the safety and health of their employees. For 2020, AFS will continue to work with our members to provide critical information and resources to help keep metalcasting workers safe. AFS will be submitting comments on several OSHA proposals including the Mechanical Power Press rule (which hasn’t been revised in 40 years), the updated Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal and post-incident drug testing and safety incentive program.
AFS regularly engages with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and Congress on a wide variety of safety and health issues. For 2020, OSHA has several pending regulatory agenda items that are in the pre-rule stage, including a request for information to update the Mechanical Power Press rule (which hasn’t been revised in 40 years), and the issuance of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in September 2020 for the Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal rule. In November 2020, OSHA is expected to propose rules regarding post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs. AFS will submit comments on these key OSHA rulemakings impacting metalcasters once they are released.
AFS supports tax policy that encourages manufacturing activity in the United States and promotes domestic capital investment. In 2020, AFS is continuing to advocate before Congress to:
Make the Section 199A Deduction for PassThrough Businesses Permanent. The TCJA created a new 20% deduction available to manufacturers organized as pass-throughs, but this deduction expires in 2025.
Maintain Bonus Depreciation at 100%. Under the TCJA, bonus depreciation increased to 100% for 5 years and expanded qualified property to include both new and used equipment purchases. Bonus depreciation was previously set at 50% and only included new assets. It is set to be reduced by 20% per year thereafter in 2023; expiring at the end of 2027.
Maintain Expanded Section 179 Expensing. Section 179 has been expanded and increased to allow taxpayers a deduction of up to $1,000,000 and has increased the phase-out threshold to $2,500,000 of qualified property.
Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT creates needless complexity and is a tax increase on many metalcasting businesses. The Act increased the exemption level for individual AMT filers, but that will expire in 2025. While the AMT should be repealed altogether, at the very least the AMT relief in the Act should be made permanent.
Maintain the Estate Tax Exemptions. The TCJA doubled the estate tax exemption to $11 million per person/$22.4 million per couple, but the tax relief provisions will expire at the end 2025 without congressional action.
Promote Infrastructure Investment in the Tax Code. AFS supports the expansion of the private-activity bond (PAB) cap to allow for additional investment in highways and water infrastructure, as well as public infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and courthouses.
Specifically, AFS supports a comprehensive energy policy that increases all avenues of domestic production including domestic oil and natural gas exploration, as well as clean and renewable energy sources. In 2020, AFS will advocate for the following key policies:
- Invest in Transmission Line Infrastructure and Smart Grid Technology.
- Incentivize Clean and Renewable Energy Sources.
- Streamline the Approval Process for Pipeline Infrastructure.
- Increase the Deployment of Combined Heat and Power and Waste Heat to Power.
- Promote Development of Energy Storage Technologies.