I would like to voice my disagreement with the Deseret News editorial comment (April 8) with respect to expanded fields of membership for credit unions.
The Credit Union Membership Access Act (HR1151) has now gone to the U.S. Senate. This bill is an attempt by credit unions to undermine the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the "common-bond" rule. After careful deliberation and consideration of all the facts, the Supreme Court wisely determined that a credit union cannot serve multiple, unrelated groups that do not have the necessary "common bond."However, the U.S. House of Representatives gave in to political pressure from credit union lobbyists and passed HR1151 without regard to the long-term effect of this measure on federal and state tax revenues and the structure of the banking industry. Now it is in the hands of the U.S. Senate. I am hopeful that the Senate will do the right thing and carefully consider all the facts, and not be swayed by the emotional scare tactics that credit unions are employing.
Our country's taxpayers cannot afford HR1151, or any other measure that would subsidize credit union growth beyond their current legal limits at the expense of tax-paying institutions. HR1151 would significantly expand the ability of tax-subsidized credit unions to grow their membership, at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer who has carried the burden of subsidizing the credit unions' tax-free status.
I do not believe anyone has yet calculated the annual cost of this to the American taxpayer, but it would have an enormous impact. For example, just last year Zions First National Bank, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, paid more than $65 million in federal and state income taxes. What portion of the tax burden have credit unions carried?
Yes, America is about freedom of choice - but this issue is really not about free choice, as the credit unions would have you believe - it is about a free ride on the backs of American taxpayers. Contrary to what credit unions would have you believe, banks do not seek to eliminate credit unions. Banks do want a level playing field. If credit unions want to preserve the special tax treatment they already enjoy, then they should abide by the "common-bond" boundaries that are already in place. If, however, they want to compete with banks for the same customers with the same services, then they should be subject to the same rules.
The claim that the Supreme Court ruling will disenfranchise millions of credit union members is just untrue. The ruling does not take away a consumer's freedom to choose a credit union or other financial institution. All the ruling stated was that credit unions cannot expand by taking on additional, unrelated common-bond groups. All those groups can still form credit unions - no one's freedom is being taken away; no credit union is being dissolved; no one's credit union membership is being revoked.
As stated recently by William T. McConnell, president of the American Bankers Association, "Credit union managers that want their common bond to stretch to Pluto shouldn't ask American taxpayers to pay for the trip."