Indiana needs a senator whose top mission is jobs for Hoosiers, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly said Monday (May 9).
That’s why he decided to throw his hat into the ring in a bid for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Richard Lugar, the South Bend Tribune reported.
“Indiana would benefit from a senator whose No. 1 priority is jobs,” Donnelly said in a conference call with reporters Monday after the official announcement that he will run for Senate.
Donnelly, whose district encompasses part of RV industry hub Elkhart County, spoke from South Bend before catching a flight back to Washington, D.C.
Recent redistricting that makes it less likely a Democrat will win in his congressional district the next time around was not the determining factor, Donnelly said in response to a question.
“That was not the primary consideration. It (the Senate bid) is a chance to work on the issues I’ve been passionate about for the north central part of the state,” he said. “This is more about how I can best serve the state.”
The Senate bid makes it possible to take the concern about jobs and the economy to a broader audience, he said.
Democrats are thought to have a shot at the Senate seat because incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar is being challenged by state Treasurer Richard Murdock for the Republican nomination.
Donnelly said he came to the decision to run for Senate recently, after long consideration and discussions with his wife and children. He said he will serve out his full term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Donnelly said he isn’t focused on the Republican side, where Lugar will face a strong challenge in the primary by Murdock, but said he thinks Lugar “has a pretty tough scrape on his hands.”
He said he is prepared to run against any candidate the Republicans nominate.
Donnelly also considered running for governor. “After looking at both (spots), I thought I would have the strongest impact in the U.S. Senate,” he said.
“I’m one of the most independent members of the House,” Donnelly said, vowing to be the same if elected to the Senate.
Donnelly, of Granger, has been serving in Indiana’s 2nd District congressional seat since 2007.
Donnelly dismissed any comparisons between his Senate race and that of former Rep. Brad Ellsworth, another moderate Democrat who lost badly to GOP Sen. Dan Coats in the 2010 Senate race. Donnelly described Ellsworth as a dear friend whom he’ll turn to for advice, but said this is a whole different election.
Republicans who control the Indiana Legislature would shift several GOP-leaning areas into the northern Indiana congressional district narrowly won last year by Democrat Joe Donnelly, WRTV-TV, Indianapolis, reported.
The Senate Election Committee today (April 11) released proposed new district maps for Indiana’s nine congressional and 50 state Senate districts.
The congressional map puts all of Elkhart County and most of Kosciusko County, which form the hub of the nation’s RV industry, into Donnelly’s current district and removes part of Democratic-leaning LaPorte County and all of Kokomo.
Donnelly narrowly defeated Republican Jackie Walorski last year, and she has already announced plans to run in the 2012 election.
Republicans had complete control of the once-a-decade redistricting process this year because they have majorities in the House and Senate.
In general, the congressional districts are more compact and divide fewer counties into pieces.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is hopeful the newly signed Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 will spur RV dealer wholesale floorplan lending through the Small Business Administration (SBA), even though the previous SBA approach fell short of expectations for many in the industry.
Donnelly was a key supporter of the act, which encompassed many of the suggestions he garnered from RV dealers, manufacturers and lenders at a forum he sponsored Feb. 5 in Elkhart, Ind. The new law extends the SBA’s Dealer Floor Plan Program, which Donnelly first called for through bipartisan legislation he introduced in July 2010.
Donnelly held a news conference today (Oct. 1) at Total Value RV on the north side of Elkhart to comment on the new law, which had bipartisan support.
The new law increases the limits on SBA guaranteed 7(a) loans from $2 million to as much as $5 million and for manufacturers in the 504 loan program, loans are increased up to $5.5 million.
“In effect what we saw passed was written and put together by the folks in Elkhart, from the RV and marine industries,” Donnelly told RVBUSINESS.com following his news conference. “It was dealers, manufacturers and the lenders saying, ‘Here’s what we need.’”
Donnelly said that lenders had told him that they were not interested in the original SBA program because of its Sept. 30 expiration date. The new law extends it for three years, which should now make it attractive, he said, and will make it easier for banks to track dealer inventory and reduce recordkeeping costs. He anticipates that more large banks, as well as smaller community banks, will now step forward to participate in the SBA program.
“I’m very happy that some of these fresh ideas have now become law and our government will work better for these businesses so important to growing the Hoosier economy,” Donnelly said at the conference
The new law, however, does not raise the SBA guarantee in floorplan loans from the current 75% to 90%, as had been requested by lenders at the Feb. 5 conference.
“We tried to get done, but there was not a willingness (by Congress) to increase it any higher,” he told RVBUSINESS.com.
“This bill provides an important option to RV dealers that will help make the wholesale purchase of RVs easier,” said BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates and a board member and long-time Public Relations Committee Chairman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
“Anytime we can remove hurdles and help fulfill the demand for RVs, that’s good for the economy,” said Thompson in the press release. “And by supporting this bill, Congressman Donnelly has again stepped up and continued to be a friend of the RV industry.“
The SBA’s Dealer Floor Plan (DFP) Financing Pilot Program was created in July 2009 to provide loan guarantees through SBA lenders for titleable assets such as autos, RVs, boats, and trailers through the SBA’s 7(a) loan program.
But the program fell short of its goal, and less than 50 auto dealers and just two RV dealers had taken part as of February.
Based on the feedback Donnelly received from dealers and lenders, he and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., introduced H.R. 5734, The Dealer Floor Plan Program Extension and Improvement Act, in July that would extend the DFP program for five years.
Donnelly had written to congressional leaders strongly urging them to do more to help meet the needs of small business owners by expanding the lending limits to $5 million.
The new law additionally invests in current and future small business owners by providing grants to Small Business Development Centers. Dan Jones, president of the Business Development Corp., joined Donnelly at Total RV today to talk about the increased opportunities for small businesses.
“Many more companies are now eligible for SBA 504 loans,” said Jones. “The size of small businesses that qualify was increased. Those businesses having a tangible net worth of $15 million and 2-year average net income after federal income tax of $5 million are now eligible.
“Of special importance to small businesses that are struggling with existing high-interest loans or up-coming loan balloon payoffs, the SBA 504 loan program can now be used to refinance existing debt at lower rates for longer terms. There was also $505 million included in the legislation to continue fee relief on SBA 504 loans through the end of 2010. This fee waiver was first enacted in February 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA), and the new funds will allow borrowers who applied for SBA 504 loans under the ARRA program to save thousands of dollars in loan fees.”
“Access to credit is one of the most critical issues for small businesses right now,” said Donnelly. “With increased loan limits and increased training funding for current and future small business owners, we’re giving Hoosier small business owners the tools they need to succeed.”
Sen. Evan Bayh and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, both Democrats representing Indiana, have introduced two pieces of legislation supporting the RV industry.
Donnelly and Bayh were successful in including a tax deduction for new motorhomes in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but the benefit expired at the end of 2009. To continue to protect jobs throughout Indiana’s important RV industry, Thursday (Feb. 25) they introduced legislation that would renew for two more years the tax benefit for new motorhomes and also expand it to include new towable RVs and truck campers, according to a joint release by the officials.
The legislation would make amounts paid on state sales and excise taxes deductible and could be claimed on up to $49,500 of the price of a new purchase. The tax relief could be claimed by both itemizers and non-itemizers, and they could save up to $1,100.
“Making new RVs more affordable for two additional years will assist the RV industry in bouncing back from this recession,” said Donnelly, whose congressional district includes Elkhart County. “We are seeing positive results from last year’s tax benefit, but we’re not out of the woods yet. By continuing to provide tax relief to new customers, we will protect and create jobs in north central Indiana.”
“With the RV industry adding jobs and showing signs of recovery, now is the time to ensure the momentum continues,” Bayh said. “Elkhart County is the ‘RV capital of the world,’ and Congress must do more to nurture the industry’s recovery. This legislation builds on last year’s important tax relief to protect and grow RV sales and create jobs for the hard-working Hoosiers who keep this industry moving forward.”
“Continuing the sales and excise tax deductions for motorhomes and expanding this provision to include travel trailers and truck campers are exactly what the RV industry needs,” said Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon. “It will improve the economic environment in our industry, stimulate RV sales and help speed the RV market’s recovery.”
Bayh and Donnelly also introduced HR 1073/SR 410, a resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of RVs.
“I’m proud to represent the ‘RV capital of the world,’ which has benefited the north central Indiana economy for years,” said Donnelly. “I am pleased to recognize the 100th anniversary of a vehicle that has brought both jobs and recreation to our area.”
“The RV industry is an important driver of Indiana’s economy and an important source of recreation for families across the country,” Bayh said. “I congratulate the RV industry on its first 100 years, and I look forward to even more success in the years to come.”
In 2009, Bayh received the National Legislative Award from the RVIA.
Donnelly is seeking re-election this year. Bayh announced earlier he will not seek re-election.
Congress is focused on creating jobs, reducing the federal deficit, taking care of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and creating an ” American energy bill,” according to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
Donnelly, whose district includes northern Indiana’s RV manufacturing hub, spoke to about 50 people during a fund-raising breakfast Monday morning (Nov. 16) at the Matterhorn Restaurant in Elkhart, Ind.
The fund raiser was sponsored by a group of RV-industry luminaries that included Jim Shea of Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Gregg Fore of Dicor Corp., Pete Liegl and Don Gunden of Forest River Inc., Ed Hussey Jr. of Liberty Homes, Jason Lippert of Lippert Components, Dave Weed of Robert Weed Lumber Corp. and the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association/Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council.
Shea, chairman of Gulf Stream, started the gathering with a moment of silence for Wade F.B. Thompson, the chairman of Thor Industries Inc. who died last week. ”He was a great contributor to our industry,” Shea said.
Regarding Donnelly, Shea noted that the congressman had been an RV industry champion during congressional hearings last summer into formaldehyde levels in travel trailers built to house homeless Gulf Coast residents after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. ”He was there taking some of the slings and arrows from his activated brothers on (Capital) Hill for us.”
For his part, Donnelly praised Shea and other RV industry executives who testified during the hearings. ” They did an extraordinary job representing our area and the product that we make,” Donnelly said.
Rather than the formaldehyde brouhaha, it was the lengths to which the RV industry went to build temporary housing for hurricane victims that ”was the real story,” Donnelly said.
”That was recognized and those people were deeply, deeply appreciative to be in a place where they could have some shelter … and have a clean place to go to everyday.”
Despite appearances sometimes to the contrary, ”the focus moving forward in Congress is about three or four things,” Donnelly said.
He voted against the ”cap-and-trade” energy bill because ”it didn’t really cover energy,” he said.
”One of the most important things for our industry is an all-American energy program so that you have stable gas prices and stable energy prices so that people feel confident,” Donnelly said.
He said such legislation should include nuclear power and exploration for natural gas and oil in the U.S. ”Those are very, very important things,” he noted, declaring the ”cap-and-trade bill is basically dead.”
”My expectation that anything that comes forward in the next year or two will include an all-America energy package,” he added.
Donnelly said that his office has been working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to increase the guaranteed loan limit for RV floorplan financing from $2 million to $3 million.
”We have very important business to do,” the congressman said. ” That is stabilize this economy, create confidence and jobs and reduce the deficit.”
He reported that he voted for the health-insurance reform legislation only to keep the bill moving through Congress. ”The bill we voted on will not be the final product,” Donnelly said. ” This is a process.”
He said U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is on the point in the Senate to keep costs of health reform under control ”Their bill is substantially less in cost and that is his job — to make sure all those numbers work,” Donnelly said.
He said he expects a so-called ”public option” provision to be included in final legislation — if there is any — with a trigger to keep insurance companies from raising rates out of proportion to need. ”The purpose of that is to keep the (insurance rates) as low as possible,” he said.
”Your biggest request of (Congress) is to stay out of your way. That’s what we want to do. Our goal is for people to go to work on Monday, pick up a pay check on Friday, have stable gas prices and credit markets. That’s where the focus is going to be.”
Proponents of the TALF (Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility), which rolls out this month, say this could be what opens credit markets and attracts more dollars to the RV industry, says a Southwest RV dealer.
“We are entering a popular season for RV sales,” said Clint Ethington, general manager of Pedata RV Center, Tucson, Ariz. “Our prices are at record lows. We are getting interested buyers left and right. However credit is still an issue.”
Ethington, who has been aggressive on the Internet lately with regard to RV industry issues, noted that the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) hosted a seminar in South Bend, Ind., on March 11 titled “TALF and the RV Industry.” The seminar outlined how the TALF may help the RV industry recover from the economic crisis. Robert Snow, an RV finance and asset backed loan specialist of Capital Carillon, led the seminar and explained in part:
“Under TALF, the United States Treasury is providing $20 billion in credit protection to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which will then lend up to $200 billion to investors looking to purchase asset-backed securities (ABS) that are backed by the following loan collateral: RV, auto, motorcycle, credit cards, student loans and SBA loans, as well auto and RV floorplan facilities. Through the effort, financial institutions will be encouraged to make RV floorplan and consumer loans because they can be assured a secondary market exists for those loans when securitized…”
Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was also a presenter at the seminar and addressed RV industry leaders. According to RVBusiness.com, Donnelly said, “TALF is expected to be very lucrative and profitable for lenders and investors with the Treasury Department backing up loans in a big way. As the program rolls out this month, our hope is that it will open up credit markets and attract more dollars to the RV industry.”
“We have some good supporters of our industry leading the push forward,” said Ethington. “We applaud their efforts and hope the TALF not only helps our industry, but the economy as a whole.”