Bad Policy – AGAIN!

Further hikes in PBGC premiums will help pay for a federal budget bill agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders late Monday.

But, at what cost to our economy and employees?

According to P&I, the budget deal, which lays out a two-year budget and extends the federal debt limit until March 2017, raises per-person premiums paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. from $64 in 2016 to $68 in 2017, $73 in 2018 and $78 in 2019. The 2015 rate is $57. Variable rate premiums would increase to $38 by 2019 from the current $24.

The proposal also calls for extending pension funding stabilization rules for two more years, until 2022, to allow sponsors to use higher interest rates when calculating contribution rates. Regrettably, this is nothing more than fuzzy math, and it continues to mask the true economics for DB plans.

“Once again the employer-sponsored system is being targeted for revenue,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee, who predicted that the premium hike will give defined benefit plan sponsors “more reasons to consider exit strategies.” We, at KCS, absolutely agree. DB plans need to be preserved. Punishing sponsors by raising PBGC premiums is not supportive.

“It’s an incredibly bad idea and it’s going to have, in the long run, devastating consequences for the (defined benefit) system,” said Deborah Forbes, executive director of the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets, in an interview.

According to P&I, PBGC officials had not called for additional premium increases in the single-employer program on top of ones already scheduled. “PBGC’s finances for the single-employer program have been improving steadily over the past few years, and there is really no reason to increase single-employer premiums at this time,” said Michael Kreps, a principal with Groom Law Group.

We’ve witnessed a precipitous decline in the use of DB plans during the last 30+ years. The elimination of DB plans as THE primary retirement vehicle and the move toward DC offerings to fill that gap is creating an environment in which there will be grave social and economic consequences. Enough already! Wake up Washington before the slope gets too slippery.

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