How Are Those Talks Going?

The following press release was posted (11/29) on the website for the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans:

Pension Committee Co-Chairs: ‘We have made meaningful progress toward a bipartisan proposal and work will continue’

WASHINGTON – Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans Co-Chairmen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released the following statement today committing to continue their work to solve to the multiemployer pension crisis past Nov. 30. When the Joint Select Committee was created, it was expected members would vote on a package by this Friday. Hatch and Brown say that while they have made significant progress and a bipartisan solution is attainable, more time is needed and the committee will continue its work.

“The problems facing our multiemployer pension system are multifaceted and over the years have proven to be incredibly difficult to address. Despite these challenges and a highly-charged political environment, we have made meaningful progress toward a bipartisan proposal to address the shortcomings in the system to improve retirement security for workers and retirees while also providing certainty for small businesses that participate in multiemployer plans.

“While it will not be possible to finalize a bipartisan agreement before Nov. 30, we believe a bipartisan solution is attainable, and we will continue working to reach that solution.

“We understand that the longer that these problems persist, the more burdensome and expensive for taxpayers they become to address, and we are committed to working toward a final agreement as quickly as possible.

“We would like to thank all the members of the Joint Select Committee for their hard work and continued dedication to addressing the issues that plague the multiemployer system. It has not been an easy job and all of their contributions have been, and will continue to be, vital to our work.

Well, it has been a little more than one week since the above was posted.  I haven’t heard anything about on-going discussions.  Have you? I realize that the passing of President George H. W. Bush has distracted many in Washington DC, while the passing of a two-week stopgap spending measure probably had a few others taking their eyes off the ball.  But, don’t you get the feeling that something will always take priority over passing critically important legislation to protect and preserve the pensions for millions of Americans?

Discussions related to this issue have been on-going for decades, and what is there to show for it? We got MPRA, which was anything but a fix for those in challenged plans. The employees who worked years while also contributing to their pension funds in anticipation of getting this benefit upon retirement deserve better. Waiting at this juncture is not an option! Earlier this year, we were talking about 114 plans that were defined as being in Critical and Declining status. Today, that number is 121. As those in DC struggle to come together more and more plans will begin to see their funded status deteriorate to the point that they will also be labeled as C&D. This is unacceptable. October and November have been challenging months for the markets.  Please don’t wait for another Great Financial Crisis before doing something?

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