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Congressional Record2017/5/11Senate | House | Extensions

2017/5/11 > Extensions > E626 > 1 | 2 | Next Article


[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E626]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO



                           HON. MARCY KAPTUR

                                of ohio

                    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 multiemployer plans.

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 plans.

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. ____________________

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