Industry Pushes Ahead on Tariff Bill

WASHINGTON — The footwear industry is making one last big push to convince lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a bill this year that would eliminate millions of dollars in duties on lower-priced imported footwear.

A group of 46 footwear retail and brand chief executives recently sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate pressing them to bring the Affordable Footwear Act to the floor for a vote, as part of an economic stimulus package, in a possible “lame-duck” session after the presidential election.

“The Affordable Footwear Act is the perfect opportunity to provide a tangible tax cut that would immediately stimulate the economy and provide a benefit to Main Street Americans,” said the CEOs in the letter. “We urge the inclusion of [the bill] in appropriate legislation that passes during the lame-duck session to assist struggling Americans.”

The proposed footwear bill would eliminate some $800 million in duties across several footwear categories. The coalition argues that a tariff on certain types of lower-priced footwear is a regressive tax hurting low- to middle-income families. The bill would eliminate roughly 43 percent of the $1.8 billion in annual duties collected by the U.S. government.

Most legislation, including the footwear bill, stalled in the final weeks Congress was in session due to the severe financial crisis triggered by alarming rates of home foreclosures, which prompted lawmakers to invest their remaining time and energy into passing a $700 billion financial bailout package of the financial industry.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has called the Senate back into session the week of Nov. 17 to consider certain legislation, and some lobbyists anticipate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) will call the House back into session. Pelosi initiated a series of House committee hearings in the past month to build the case for moving a second economic stimulus package.

The timing of a congressional vote on a stimulus package is unclear, primarily due to the outcome of the election on Nov. 4.

A coalition of footwear companies and trade and lobbying associations spent more than $900,000 in the last year lobbying members of Congress and the Bush administration for the passage of the bill.

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