|It's A Good Day for Pensions|
At a Congressional hearing before the Joint Economic Committee yesterday, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., declared it a good day for pensions. First, Senator Robert Casey, D-Penn., has convened the hearing to examine the economic and retirement security benefits of pensions.
The three-hour hearing garnered attention from key lawmakers, including JEC Chair, Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “Senator Casey is right to point out that strong public pension plans benefit more than just the workers they are designed to serve,” he said.
Schumer also noted that “these plans help fuel the economy by driving investment to venture capital funds that play a critical role in nurturing American innovation and breakthroughs across the technological spectrum - including life saving advances in health care. So, it is critical that we in Congress do all we can to ensure that public defined benefit pension plans are protected.’
In his opening remarks, Senator Casey’s highlighted the role of pensions in providing retirement security, recruiting workers, stimulating the economy and providing investment capital. He also stated his concerns that “moving billions of dollars of retirement assets from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans adds substantially to the risk we are asking ordinary Americans to take.“
As reported in Pensions and Investments, Senator Casey also remarked that “At a minimum, we should ensure that the circumstances that led to the decline of defined benefit plans in the corporate world are not repeated in the public or Taft-Hartley sectors.”
Also in attendance were Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Tex, Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Committee members probed a wide range of issues related to pensions, and remarked that economic security issues are top-of-mind for their constituents.
Testifying at the hearing were: Mr. Sherrill Neff, Partner, Quaker BioVenture; Dr. Christian Weller, Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; Mr. Will Pryor, a firefighter and Chair of the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association; and Barbara Bovjberg, Director, Education Workforce, and Income Security with the Government Accountability Office.
At the conclusion of the three-hour long session, Senator Casey asked the panelists for their recommendations on what Congress can do with respect to pensions. The panelists agreed that public pensions do not require new/additional Federal attention, but that work is needed to restore retirement security for private sector workers and to address the national healthcare crisis.
The headline of the Bureau of National Affairs July 11th article sums up the hearing: “Public Pension Plans Getting It Right, Speakers Tell Senate Committee Hearing.”
Indeed, a good day for pensions. Given the tough economic conditions and retirement insecurity of many Americans, we need more good days.
Posted By: Beth Almeida, NIRS Executive Director, on July 11, 2008