AICPA sits down with NCSL president-elect
The American Institute of CPAs recently hosted a reception in Washington, D.C. to recognize Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D) on her new position as president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL is a bipartisan organization that supports state lawmakers and provides policy makers with opportunities to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. Senator Hutchinson will assume the role of NCSL president at the organization’s 2018 Legislative Summit in Los Angeles.
Marty Green, Vice President of government relations at the Illinois CPA Society said, “Senator Hutchinson is collaborative, knowledgeable, respected and accessible. We have worked closely with her as Chair of the Senate Revenue Committee and you could not ask for a better Chair of this important committee.”
AICPA Vice President for State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Skip Braziel, sat down with Senator Hutchinson to ask some questions about her goals for her presidency and her views on working with the CPA profession.
What is NCSL and how did you get involved?
I got involved in the National Conference of State Legislatures when I was Chief of Staff for my predecessor, former Illinois Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who was then the Illinois Senate Majority Leader. I saw how much staff support, education and resources they offered and fell in love with the organization. Later, I attended conferences as a lobbyist/governmental affairs person and then continued coming as a member of the IL General Assembly. I've been affiliated with, learning from, and advocating for NCSL for nearly 14 years now in various capacities.
What do you believe are the biggest issues facing state legislators and how is NCSL addressing those issues?
The biggest issues facing Legislators across the country is budgetary; especially where government revenues are a mixture of federal and state resources. States were hit hard by the recession, the housing crisis and other events outside of our control. The 2017 Federal tax reform will also have real impacts on state and federal budgets. However, every state Legislator has to meet the needs of its constituencies that differ regionally and economically depending on the driving forces in their parts of the country. The Midwest has different economic structures than the Southern states, the Eastern Seaboard or the West Coast. A volatile political environment juxtaposed with a time when people are the most distrustful of government makes substantive policy debate extremely difficult. We at NCSL refer to the States as laboratories of democracy with all kinds of innovative solutions to problems that can be shared through the convening power of a national organization. Through our standing committees, task forces, leadership development programs and legislative staff development, we are a leading resource for Legislators and Legislative staff on best practices and innovation. This is the best way we know to strengthen the institution of the Legislature across the country.
What has been your experience working with members of the CPA profession?
I worked with the Illinois CPA Society when I sponsored the omnibus tax bill that expanded the sales tax base to consumer and personal services. I wanted to ensure that Illinois was equitable with our neighboring states and made sure only consumer and personal services taxed by all our neighboring states were included.
I also worked with the Society on gender equity initiatives. We held an event with female firm partners to discuss the profession’s commitment to gender equity in firm partnerships.
What will be your top agenda item/s as President?
We are working towards expanding opportunities for Legislators particularly from term limited states in order to help them be more affective Legislators in whatever stage of their legislative career they are in. Newly elected Legislators learn very quickly that there is no manual or training on how to be a Legislator right after the campaign is over. NCSL is here to help! As I stated earlier, I can't change the ideological debate that exists among the partisan divide. But I honestly believe that changing how we debate creates better lawmakers. When lawmakers step outside of their own viewpoints for a minute, network with other Legislators who may be experiencing similar issues, and provided access to national research in their area of interest, they return to their respective chambers stronger. Our current style of policy negotiations as shown on TV is toxic. Very rarely do the opposing sides address one issue in the same place from multiple perspectives. That's the magic of NCSL.
Many of our members are currently dealing with the tax reform changes. What do you see ahead for states’ conforming to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?
I suggest visiting the NCSL page on how federal tax reform affects the states for a full report on this topic.