- Tax reform is seen by waste and recycling industry professionals as a top priority for Congress to tackle during the remaining months of 2017. The issue led among 44% of respondents after a two-day online poll in Waste Dive's newsletter.
- The broader category of environmental policy ranked second, with 30% of respondents choosing it as their main agenda item.
- Healthcare came in third, with 18%, and immigration policy ranked last, with 8%.
Predicting what will happen in the federal government has often proven futile during 2017, but with about 10 weeks left in the year, the pressure is increasing for Congress to deliver more results. Among an industry that is so often driven by local factors, the priorities of each company, nonprofit or local government agency can be expected to differ. Depending on a reader's interest, the favorable response toward general "environmental policy" could mean anything from support for the Trump administration's deregulation agenda, to a hope for more focus on climate change and renewable energy. Healthcare reform, which has become something of an albatross for Congress this year, has gotten harder to achieve after each failed attempt. Immigration policy, which could play a role in hiring options for operations along the southern border or in some larger cities, is increasingly seen as an issue for 2018 and played a large role in the 2016 election.
Throughout the year's many political shifts, tax reform has still been cited as an ongoing priority for the industry during interviews, conference appearances and casual conversation. Some of the top executives were particularly bullish on the prospect in earlier quarterly earnings calls, with Waste Connections CEO Ron Mittelstaedt predicting an "M&A bonanza" if tax reform came through. As the months have gone by, these predictions have become slightly less confident, though during an interview with Waste Dive last month Waste Management CEO Jim Fish still said he was "optimistic that something will get done by the end of the year." The National Waste & Recycling Association has also been watching this area closely, and is generally in favor of the corporate tax restructuring discussion.
What exactly this could mean for a new corporate tax rate, or changes to the pass-through rate for small businesses, is still unknown. Like most items in this current Congress, it will still be challenging to reach a majority consensus and many variables remain. More certainty, in terms of a timeline, is expected to come once the House passes the Senate's budget, which could happen as soon as this week. Upcoming Q3 earnings calls this week and next will also give a sense of where the industry's top executives stand on the issue.