July 09, 2019

News: The Butch Lewis Act Can Save Multiemployer Pension Plans

If lawmakers do not take dramatic action, economists predict that more than 100 pension plans will become insolvent within the next few years. That means massive benefit cuts and increased financial insecurity for millions of retirees who earned pension benefits through a lifetime of hard work. If nothing is done, many pension plan participants could see their benefits decrease by 50 to 75 percent.

The issue affects more than just pension plan participants. It is also a critical source of revenue for communities across the country. The multiemployer pension system generated $14.7 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and added $50 billion in value to the GDP in 2016, according to a study by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

However, it is possible to put the brakes on this crisis. The Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, also known as the Butch Lewis Act, would allow the Treasury Department to issue loans to save multiemployer pension plans from insolvency.

On July 10, the House Committee on Ways and Means passed H.R. 397 out of committee. This is an important step, but we need to pressure the full House and the Senate to pass this critical legislation so that it becomes law.

H.R. 397 would protect about 1.3 million pension plan participants for at least 30 years and save the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation $65 billion. These government-backed loans would stabilize the pension plans and protect those whose retirement depends on them.

It is only fair for Congress to take action on behalf of workers and retirees whose pensions are at risk through no fault of their own. There is a precedent: the government spent more than $700 billion bailing out Wall Street during the financial crisis. It is time for elected officials to take action on behalf of their constituents and communities before we have a national disaster.

by Robert Roach, Jr.

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