Water access, ethanol, tax policy are top concerns
By Tim Hennagir
Trump administration policies implemented in the president’s first year in office are having a positive effect, according to a majority of those surveyed by Boating Industry.
However, when asked about the scope of overall government regulation and its ongoing impact upon marine businesses, many respondents provided strong responses when asked to state their biggest concerns.
The latest Boating Industry survey was conducted via email in early March, when news was breaking regarding Trump’s formal announcement of new tariffs on steel imports (a 25 percent tariff) and aluminum imports (a 10 percent tariff).
Respondents were a mix of dealers, marinas, engine and boat manufacturers, service providers and others working in the industry.
Nearly 60 percent of respondents stated Trump administration policies were having a positive effect on the industry. Sixteen percent said those policies were having a negative effect, and 14 percent answered the president’s actions had a neutral effect. Eleven percent reported they were unsure about the administration’s policies.
Respondents were split equally (47 percent) on the importance of government and regulatory issues either being “very important” or “somewhat important” to their business success. Only 5 percent provided a “somewhat unimportant” response.
Water access overtakes ethanol
Water access overtook ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard as the top regulatory concern for Boating Industry readers who responded to this year’s government survey.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they are very concerned about water access issues and another 25 percent are at least somewhat concerned.
Regarding ethanol, 46 percent of readers said the fuel remained an important policy concern for their business, up from 34 percent last year and 28 percent in 2016.
Regulation of invasive species had 38 percent of respondents very concerned and 28 percent somewhat concerned.
Tax policy remains important to survey respondents. Thirty-seven percent said they were very concerned about the issue, and only 4 percent were not concerned at all.
This year, 27 percent said it would have the most effect upon their business, up from 21 percent in 2017 and 17 percent in 2016.
Implementation of aluminum sheet tariffs elicited a very concerned response from 36 percent of those surveyed, with only 13 percent indicating they were not concerned at all about the issue.
Local zoning issues (33 percent), other environmental regulations (31 percent), passage of the Modern Fish Act (30 percent), and engine emission standards (17 percent) were also issues that had the highest level of respondent concern.
“Although the federal government plays a role in the big picture, local government is the biggest problem, especially when they are not business friendly,” wrote one survey respondent. Another Boating Industry survey respondent was highly critical of the state governor: “He has been enforcing state law and regulations that have hurt us more than national government.”
The inability to complete maintenance dredging, fishing regulations, onerous legislation that negatively impacts all businesses, and local zoning affecting water access were other specific concerns citied by survey respondents.
Engaging government, taking action
With these issues in mind, many Boating Industry readers reported they are taking action to share their opinions with elected officials.
More than 70 percent said they have made an effort of some sort to affect public policy, the same as last year. Forty-nine percent said they have contacted an elected representative or regulatory official to share their opinions (up 3 percent from last year) while 37 percent have met with a representative or official in person.
Thirty-five percent have responded to a “call to action” from a trade association such as NMMA, MRAA, ABYC or some other group. Eight percent have attended a state legislative conference or session and 15 percent have attended American Boating Congress.
Twelve percent have financially supported the industry’s efforts by contributing it BoatPAC, the political action committee of NMMA and MRAA, while 6 percent have signed up for Boating United and 8 percent have reported taking some other type of action, such as supporting local efforts.