WASHINGTON, DC – A congressional committee recently released a key report that Washington insiders are calling “great news and a great leap forward” in the efforts to enact a small business tax credit for training hvacr technicians and other highly skilled apprentices.

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) issued its cost analysis and projection, or “score,” on HR 1824, the Skilled Workforce Enhancement Act. HR 1824 would have a major impact on thousands of small business employers nationwide who face crippling shortages from the growing skilled workforce crisis.

JCT has announced that HR 1824 will cost $3.5 billion dollars in the first full year if the bill is enacted. In the first five years, the bill would cost an average of $5.5 billion per year. In the first 10 years, the average cost would be $6.83 billion per year.

Roadblock Removed?

Randall G. Pence, president of Capitol Hill Advocates Inc., a lobbyist supporting the bill, said “The operative point here is that these numbers are well within the limits we think are necessary to move this bill forward. The consistent whisper number on the Hill has been $10 billion, that if the score came in under $10 billion per year, HR 1824 would have a real shot at passage, either this year or in 2001.

“The $3.5 billion projection in the first year supports industry views that this bill is a bargain compared to the huge hit that small businesses will suffer if we do not create a national policy to reverse the skilled workforce trends fast. This projection removes a key roadblock to attracting cosponsorship and getting this bill to the House and Senate floor before the 106th Congress adjourns this year. It is a horse race now.”

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the American economy already suffers a shortfall of highly skilled workers in the hundreds of thousands. Current trends indicate that figure could bloat into the millions in the foreseeable future as aging workers retire with insufficient apprentices to replace them.

HR 1824 would grant huge numbers of small employers, including hvacr contractors, throughout America the financial assistance they need to attack the job-training crisis directly. It would provide a groundbreaking tax credit of up to $15,000 per apprentice, per year of training, to employers who pay to train apprentices in key industries facing critical employment shortages.

In addition to the hvacr trade, such industries would include the trade of masonry, tool and die makers, precision machinists, roofing contractors, and other highly skilled trades that form the core of the foundation economy.

The bill, introduced by Congressman James Talent (R-MO), has already attracted impressive bipartisan support from more than 60 cosponsors. The House Small Business Committee held a hearing on February 9. Proponents of the bill hope to have it added to a larger tax bill or “must-pass” piece of legislation this year.