100 People to Watch This Fall : Page 96 of 102

Jerry Giovaniello Senior vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Realtors

Giovaniello is one of the top lobbyists paid to protect perhaps the most entrenched of tax breaks — the deduction for mortgage interest.  

A chief of staff to two California congressmen in the 1970s, Giovaniello has been with the realtors group for more than three decades — a tenure that gives him experience with the last successful overhaul of the tax code in 1986.

Back then, President Reagan took the mortgage interest off the table a full two years before he signed the final bill.

These days, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle acknowledge that the deduction will survive in some form, no matter where tax reform goes. 

“The federal policy choice to support home ownership has been in the Internal Revenue Code since its inception. We see no valid reason to undermine that basic decision,” Gary Thomas, the association’s president, told the House Ways and Means Committee this year.

Giovaniello and housing lobbyists are fighting to keep their deduction fully intact, which now covers second homes and up to $1.1 million in mortgage.  

Critics of the current structure say the setup doesn’t encourage home ownership as much as give those already in the market motivation to buy a bigger house.