Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) and Rep. Peter King (R) of New York announced their support for the Butch Lewis Act as an effort to save troubled multiemployer pensions such as the Central States Pension Fund and the New York State Teamsters Conference and Retirement Fund.
King is the first Republican to co-sponsor the bill.
The bill, first introduced in November by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), would create an agency within the Department of Treasury, separate from the group established under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, which could issue bonds to raise money for the troubled funds.
In board terms, the legislation is similar to ones proposed by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans and parcel giant UPS Inc. in which low interest rate loans would be offered to the fund managers to get the fund afloat for a period of up to 30 years.
“I am proud to support the Butch Lewis Act and I commend Jim Hoffa for his leadership,” said King, referring to the Teamsters general president. “Protecting retirees who worked hard for their pensions should not be a partisan issue. Republicans and Democrats should work together to allow workers to live their retirement years in dignity. It’s time to get started.”
In the Butch Lewis Act, the new Treasury group, called the Pension Rehabilitation Agency, would charge a 1% interest rate and the principle wouldn’t be due until the end of the loan.
While the specifics differ, each of the three proposals use the idea of low-interest loans and could be the basis to hash out a compromise bill encompassing parts of all three proposals.
“The Teamsters Union thanks Rep. King for his leadership in co-sponsoring this bill,” Hoffa said. “This legislation is too important to be delayed by partisan politics. The pension crisis must be addressed now, and the Butch Lewis Act is the best option. We must protect the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of active and retired workers across the country.”
The Teamsters may have lost the battle on another bill to address multiemployer pensions.
The Keep of Pension Promises Act was seen by some insiders as a long shot, a proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced in May 2017 that’s unlikely to receive Republican support. One of the two primary funding mechanisms in his bill, eliminating like-kind exchanges, is now no longer possible because the tax overhaul got rid of them, except for real estate.
However, a spokesman for Sanders told Transport Topics that the bill is very much alive.
“Sen. Sanders is continuing to fight to include KOPPA or something very similar to it in the budget deal. It would be an absolute disaster to break our promises to over 1.5 million workers and retirees who will see their pensions cut by up to 60% if Congress does not act soon,” the spokesman said, although he didn’t elaborate on the funding mechanisms in the proposal.