Va. alarm account tax scheme is DOA; Stimulus package not so stimulating for security

Thursday, February 12, 2009
WASHINGTON--There were legislative advances in Virginia and setbacks on the federal level for the security industry this week. In Virginia, a move to tax alarm industry accounts appears to be dead for 2009. The news was not so good on the federal level, where Congressional conference committees--which are working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Obama stimulus package--have eliminated components of the bill that would have helped stimulate the security industry.
In Virginia, the Senate on Feb. 9 passed a bill that would tax alarm companies $2.50 per month, per account. The tax would apply to all companies who do business in Virginia and the funds would be used for that state's Line of Duty Health Benefits Trust Fund. However, the bill is "completely dead in the House," according to John Kochensparger, president of the VBFAA, and therefore is highly unlikely to go any further this year.
Still, Kochensparger is "keeping a close eye to make sure there's no chicanery" in the form of legislative maneuvering in House committees in the next couple weeks. The Virginia Assemby is set to adjourn for the year on March 1.
The VBFAA had fully expected the Senate to pass the bill, as it did this week, yet Kochensparger said the alarm industry's efforts were having an impact. "We are delighted that we had more senators vote against the package this year," he said. The bill has passed the Senate three years in a row. Last year one senator voted against it. This year, 11 senators opposed the bill. 
In the U.S. Congress, reports from the Conference Committees show that the final version of the stimulus package will not include language supported by the Obama administration and the Security Industry Association that would include "built-in security as a priority or authorized use of stimulus package funds," said Don Erickson, SIA's legislative director.
"We are very disappointed they did not include [special authorization] for built-in security in the bill ... since the primary purpose of the bill was to stimulate the economy [and this language] would have enabled state and local governments [to quickly justify the use of funds for the installation of physical security]," he said.
This does not mean that it will be impossible for state and local governments to use stimulus funds for physical security initiatives, Erickson explained. It just means the process will be more cumbersome and time consuming. 
SIA is not giving up on the "built-in security initiative." It will be pushing this again, Erickson said, once the FY 2010 budget process begins.
Erickson is also disappointed that $14 billion for school construction and modernization, which under the Obama plan could have been used for security purposes, was cut. He noted that the conference report currently has a new $53.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, part of which could be used for a variety of purposes including school modernizations. SIA is taking a look to determine how the funds may be used, he said.
The House vote on the final version of the stimulus package, scheduled to take place today, has been postponed.