A bill that would provide $30 million in tax relief over 10 years for U.S. manufacturers of plastic tackle boxes passed March 19 by voice vote in the House of Representatives after it was detached from a bill that will provide $835 million in relief for American military personnel.
Tackle boxes are subject to a 10 percent excise tax dedicated to the Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Act. The money is distributed to states to support fishery habitats and fishing opportunities.
Some manufacturers claimed the tax cut into sales, with consumers purchasing cheaper utility boxes that could be used as an alternative to traditional tackle boxes.
Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., sponsored the tackle box provision. Some employees of tackle box manufacturer Plano Custom Molding and Engineering Co. in Plano, Ill., live within Weller's district, according to his spokesman Ben Fallon.
``Over 500 Illinois jobs depend on this legislation,'' Fallon said. ``It's very important to make sure they're not at a competitive disadvantage.''
Representatives from Plano Molding could not be reached for comment. It reported injection molding sales of $17.6 million in 2002.
Other makers of plastic tackle boxes are Angler Sports of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; Flambeau Corp., of Baraboo, Wis.; Lakewood Products of Berlin, Wis.; and SKB Corp., of Orange, Calif. There had been 10 U.S. tackle box manufacturers before the tax went into effect, Fallon said.
Plano Molding's lobbyist George J. Mannina Jr. said he was not surprised that the vote passed.
``Given that every member of the Ways and Means Committee, both Republican and Democrat, either supported the provision or said they had no objection to it, we certainly hoped the provision would be passed,'' he said.
Industry tackle box sales in 1984, when the tax was introduced, were at about $60 million, according to Mannina. By the end of the 1990s, that figure had declined to about $48 million.
During the same time, utility box manufacturers saw sales climb to more than $100 million after minimum sales in 1984, he said.
Without going into specifics, Lakewood Products Owner Randy Hess said sales ``have been going down on the fishing end.''
Owner of SKB Corp. Dave Sanderson said tackle boxes represent just ``one-third of 1 percent'' of its $40 million in total sales. Most of its business is in producing cases for musical instruments, he said.
``Tackle boxes are just something we do for fun,'' he said.
Regardless, Sanderson said he was happy to hear the provision had passed and is a step closer to becoming law.
``I can see how it's really important to them because it's really not a fair thing,'' he said.
Other plastic tackle box manufacturers could not be reached for comment.
A previous effort to pass the tax relief generated some controversy. On March 6, Republicans canceled a vote on the Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act of 2003 because they lacked the votes necessary to prevent the additions from being stripped. The revamped Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act will provide $835 million during 10 years to military members and their families, $353 million more than was called for in the original bill that included the extra provisions.
Speaking on the House floor March 6 when the vote was pulled, Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., called the original bill ``one of the smelliest pieces of legislation in recent memory.''
``The Republican's majority are using our Guard and Reserve as human shields for their special-interests selfishness,'' he said.
Dan Maffei, spokesman for New York's Charles Rangel, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Ways and Means, said ``Democrats are happy'' with the separation of the two bills.
``Democrats were never against the provision for plastics,'' he said, ``but the point is that it should've never been tied to tax relief for the military.''