When electric cooperatives have a problem so big that it takes an act of Congress to fix, they look to Sen. Rob Portman to help lead the way to a bipartisan solution.
In 2019, as co-ops that received government grants for broadband, disaster relief and other uses faced the possible loss of their tax-exempt status, the Ohio Republican became the chief Senate sponsor of the RURAL Act, which fixed the tax code and saved co-ops and their members potentially billions of dollars per year.
“Tax-exempt rural co-ops provide these important services to parts of the country where access to reliable electricity and high-speed internet is most limited, and they rely heavily on grants to perform these services,” Portman says. “Without the RURAL Act, many co-ops may have missed out on grant income or disaster assistance, hurting our efforts to promote economic development and job creation in these rural areas.”
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Portman also helped spearhead passage in 2019 of the bipartisan SECURE Act, which saved co-ops more than $30 million in pension insurance premiums to the federal government.
Those two major legislative victories underscore what a champion Portman has been for co-ops in his home state, says Patrick O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives.
“Sen. Portman has consistently made himself available to us; he listens to our ideas and concerns and has demonstrated a clear understanding of our business model, our principles and our mission,” O’Loughlin says.
Portman announced in January that he will not seek re-election to the Senate in 2022, citing his frustration with “partisan gridlock” in Congress.
“Sen. Portman has been a good friend to Ohio’s cooperatives,” O’Loughlin says. “While we wish him well in private life, we will miss his leadership in the U.S. Senate.”