Monday, November 06, 2017

Brown, Ryan outline plan to salvage pension funds

Sen. Sherrod Brown plans to introduce a bill as early as this week that he says will guarantee thousands of retirees in Ohio receive the pensions they originally were promised.

At a news conference Monday in Youngstown with Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, Brown said he wants Congress to create a new federal office that would allow no fewer than seven pension funds in the state to borrow enough money to remain solvent and continue providing pensions for retirees.

The office, which would be called the Pension Rehabilitation Fund and placed inside the U.S. Department of Treasury, would supervise the loans which would come from the sale of U.S Treasury bonds from private investors. Brown, D-Ohio, hopes to attach the bill to a larger spending bill expected to be passed at the end of the year by Congress.

“All of you here today and the thousands of retired Teamsters, miners, builders, and others across Ohio earned your pensions over a lifetime of hard work,” Brown said.

“Now those pension plans are underwater,” Brown said. “It’s bad enough that Wall Street squandered workers’ money — and it’s worse that the government that’s supposed to look out for these folks is trying to break the promise made to these workers.”

“Not on our watch,” Brown said. “We won’t allow that to happen.”

Ryan said, “We in Congress must do everything in our power to protect the retirement these Americans have earned.”

Most of those impacted are Teamsters covered by the Central States Fund, a multi-employer fund that serves trucking companies and covers 400,000 retirees across the country. Central States has warned it might have to cut pensions by an average of 22 percent for retirees because it has $35 billion in liabilities and just $17.8 billion in assets.

But, the bill also is aimed at propping up a number of other pension funds, including the United Mine Workers Pension Plan, the Ironworkers Local 17 Pension Plan, the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan and the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan.

Brown’s bill is considered a more realistic approach than one he co-sponsored in 2015 with by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, who wanted to prop up the plans by closing loopholes in the estate tax and ending a tax break on the sale of art. That bill had no chance of congressional approval.