[Extensions of Remarks]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
INTRODUCTION OF THE “KEEP OUR PENSION PROMISES ACT”
HON. MARCY KAPTUR
in the house of representatives
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, today I reintroduce the Keep Our Pension
Promises Act to reinstate the long standing federal law and principal
that prohibited cuts to private pension benefits in plans for retirees.
Pensions are one of the surest means to afford millions of middle
class families' security in retirement. They have allowed millions of
Americans to enjoy their golden years without fear that they have not
saved enough. For decades, pensions guaranteed our senior citizens the
peace of mind that a check would arrive every month for as long as they
live: this is true retirement security.
But in December 2014, Congress uprooted this security for millions of
retirees. At the last minute, in a must pass funding bill, Congress
included the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) eviscerating this
protection. With little understanding of what the provisions meant,
Congress changed a forty year old pension law that ensured retirees
were given the highest level of pension-defense. The Employee
Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, allowed for pension benefits
in multiemployer plans to be cut only when a plan runs out of money--
and even then, the retiree benefits should face cuts last. This held
true because it was the right thing to do.
Pensions are not handouts, they are deferred wages earned over a
lifetime of hard work. An estimated 1.5 million participants, including
retirees, are in multiemployer pension plans that are in danger of
running out of money in the near future. The passage of MPRA allowed
for the first time, benefits of current retirees to be cut in an
attempt to address the fiscal distress confronting some of these
This was wrong then, and remains a blemish on the Congressional
record that little action has been taken to correct the undue burden it
placed on retirees. That's why today I introduce the “Keep Our Pension
Promises Act” with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
This Act corrects the injustices bestowed upon our most vulnerable
retirees by restoring anti-cutback rules so retirees in financially
troubled multiemployer pension plans are protected from having their
earned benefits cut.
It will allow plans to partition off “orphaned” participants into a
separate plan, giving participating employers relief from shouldering
the full financial burden and risk of underfunded “orphaned”
participants--ensuring the ability for plans to become financially
secure once more.
This bill recognizes funding is the ultimate concern. It shores up
the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp and creates a legacy fund to ensure
participants in partitioned plans will continue to receive the benefits
they depend upon. The costs to create this fund are covered by closing
tax loopholes the very wealthy use to avoid taxes on like-kind
exchanges and supersized IRA accounts that hold millions, despite laws
that limit accounts to much smaller tax deductible amounts.
Further the bill ensures pension obligations are prioritized during
bankruptcies, which will help the remaining employers in the plan by
making it less likely they become responsible for underfunded orphan
Over the past few years the retirees facing these cuts mobilized.
They organized dozens of committees to spread the message of how
damaging the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act has and will be to their
lives and financial security. The Keep Our Pension Promises Act
recognizes shared sacrifice is the appropriate course of action to save
the golden years of retirement for these retirees. I encourage my
colleagues to support this measure and correct the misguided action of
passage of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act.