Pension supercommittee edges toward deal

  • November 21, 2018

POLITICO PR) is reporting that the multiemployer pension “supercommittee” is edging closer to a bipartisan plan to shore up failing multiemployer plans, two sources with knowledge of the talks told POLITICO on Tuesday.

The tentative deal was reached last Friday, according to one source — though aides for both the Democratic and Republican co-chairs insisted negotiations are still in flux.

Details spilled into the open Tuesday when the Washington Post reported on a plan — one of several said to be under consideration — that would direct the Treasury Department to spend up to $3 billion annually to stabilize under-funded pensions. The congressional aides told POLITICO the document was not a final product.

The bipartisan committee assigned to resolve the pension crisis has until Nov. 30 to come up with a solution, leaving just four more working days to come up with a legislative fix or face the threat of bankrupting the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. If at least 10 lawmakers — five from each party — agree on a solution, the bill will receive an expedited vote in both chambers of Congress.

The committee hasn’t officially met since July, but work has continued behind the scenes, the aides told POLITICO.

The committee has been deadlocked over whether to support the Butch Lewis Act, S. 2147 (115), which would create a new agency within Treasury that could authorize loans to troubled pension plans. The Democratic-backed legislation has earned support from some Republicans, such as Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), and been endorsed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Multiemployer plans are pensions negotiated by labor unions with several different employers. Once thought to be sturdier than single-company plans, multiemployer plans for declining industries have struggled to remain solvent.

Lawmakers have urged the supercommittee to act quickly, noting that some of the largest multiemployer plans could go broke within four years and bankrupt the PBGC, which insures the plans.

As the committee deliberates, more multiemployer plans have applied to the Treasury Department for permission to cut benefits. Of the 10 benefit cuts to multiemployer pension funds approved by Treasury under a 2014 reform bill, part of H.R. 83 (113), six occurred this year. Another seven are under review.