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Harkin Statement on Multiemployer Pension Cuts Proposed by the House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued a statement in response to the proposed cuts to multiemployer pensions programs included in the fiscal year 2015 Omnibus by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We in Congress should have done more to help working people in recent years as the middle class has been squeezed by stagnant wages and rising costs. The multiemployer pension system’s struggle to cope with fallout from the Great Recession is an example. Now, if we do nothing, millions may lose their pensions forever, millions more will not receive supposedly guaranteed benefits, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will collapse.

“I had hoped that we could work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to find a solution to this crisis – a balanced solution that protects benefits and PBGC solvency to the maximum extent possible, while also providing a meaningful path forward for workers, retirees and employers who want pensions in the future. Unfortunately, the approach put forth by the House and posted last night on then Rules Committee website as an amendment to the omnibus is not balanced and fails to fix the multiemployer system. It is focused almost purely on cutting retiree benefits.

“More than one million people could see their pensions cut. Meanwhile, it leaves PBGC woefully underfunded, pushing out insolvency by just two years. The approach fails to include any of the proposals to allow innovative, hybrid plan designs for the future. I cannot and do not support this unbalanced approach, which asks retirees to take potentially enormous cuts to benefits that were earned and promised, without effectively preserving the pension system going forward.”