By David Brandolph
Ghosts and goblins can be scary, but this Halloween tens of thousands of retirees across the country are counting on a special under-the-radar congressional committee to help them avoid the frightening prospect of losing their retirement benefits due to a pension plan insolvency crisis. Congress’ failure to act would also have horrific consequences for their local communities which stand to lose businesses, jobs, and tax revenue.
The Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Plans, chaired by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), has only a few short weeks to reach a bipartisan solution that preserves the hard-earned benefits of retirees, keeps afloat the federal insurance program that backs pensions, and makes solvent more than 100 financially-strapped plans covering about 1.5 million retired and working souls.
A cobweb-free solution, however, is within the committee’s skeletal grasp, but the panel of eight Democrats and eight Republicans needs to reach consensus before its November 30th legislatively-imposed Full Moon deadline arrives. Programs that loan funds to struggling plans form the basis of several proposed remedies.
One of these proposals, the Butch Lewis Act, sponsored by Brown in the Senate and Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.) in the House, could be a healing white witches’ brew as it appears to satisfy all that’s needed to construct a fair fix. The BLA prevents sick and dying plans from descending to the underworld while saving the federal insurance fund run by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It does this without slashing the benefits that retirees sacrificed so much to earn.
The Pension Rights Center is open to a range of fair solutions. All we know is that if there isn’t action soon, the multiemployer plan system could descend into the dark abyss. If that happens, life will always be a scary Halloween for more than a million retirees and workers.
Read our fact sheet: Resources for Multiemployer Reform