Candidates address the home channel

In the next four years we could theoretically have the addition of a green building lender -- Connie Mae -- or the total elimination of the Internal Revenue Service. Those ideas belong to Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee, respectively.

The latter issue, eliminating the IRS, has been predicated on the idea of instituting a national sales tax -- in Huckabee’s plan, 30 cents on the dollar for consumer purchases. Of course, retail groups have bristled at the idea of a national sales tax as being unnecessarily burdensome on business owners.

“We’re certainly not in favor of a national sales tax, but we’d certainly be in favor of something that leveled out sales tax inequalities between the states,” explained Drew Alexander, chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers, at a legislative roundtable held last year.

Some of the changes proposed by candidates are less sweeping but worth noting. The subprime mortgage market meltdown has led to a variety of proposals, on topics from how to help borrowers avoid foreclosure through an expanded NeighborWorks program (Mitt Romney) or setting tougher laws for mortgage fraud through the STOP FRAUD Act (Barack Obama).

The National Association of Realtors is just one group closely watching the candidates’ subprime stances.

“With the foreclosure rate increasing rapidly, there’s a lot that we’re watching,” said Mary Trupo, a regulatory and legislative issues spokeswoman for the NAR. “We would like to see something aimed at helping the people that are already trapped. It’s a real hands-on, grass roots kind of issue, because it affects the community and it affects the economy overall.”

According to data from Irvine, Calif.-based real estate research firm RealtyTrac, 2007 was a tough year for many more homeowners than 2006. The number of homes in some state of foreclosure was 79 percent higher in 2007 than in 2006, and the number of foreclosure filings -- about 2.2 million nationwide -- was 75 percent higher year-over-year.

“We do believe that there needs to be better regulation and oversight in the [mortgage] industry,” Trupo added.

The longstanding issue of how best to deal with the estate tax on inheritance has been particularly relevant for businesses like family owned lumberyards and hardware stores. Predictably, support or disdain of the estate tax falls along party lines -- McCain, Romney and Huckabee have expressed a desire to eliminate the estate tax. Obama and Clinton have explicitly supported preserving it in some form, with the potential for reforms to protect small businesses.

Affecting small and large businesses alike, the issue of how to regulate “green” building practices will undoubtedly be a central issue for pro dealers, builders and eventually all retailers of environmentally friendly home products. The candidates have widely varying views on the issue, from creating a set of federal regulations on green issues to, as Huckabee has suggested, letting “the free market sort out consumer preferences.” Health care issues also rank high on the candidates’ business plans.

To help you make sense of some of these issues, click here  for a chart of where the candidates stand on issues relevant to the home improvement industry.