Insular Areas and Freely Associated States Energy Developmentby Representative John Kline
Posted on 2014-12-11
KLINE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 83, the omnibus appropriations bill for 2015. I want to commend the members of the House Appropriations Committee, all of them, especially the committee's distinguished chairman, Hal Rogers, for their hard work in writing a responsible proposal that will fund our national priorities and prevent a government shutdown. I am also pleased that the bill includes critical reforms that will help our country avert a looming pension crisis.
Today, Mr. Speaker, roughly 10 million Americans participate in a multiemployer pension plan, men and women who have and continue to move our country forward: builders, truck drives, carpenters, electricians, and store clerks, to name a few.
These people worked hard and earned the promise that a pension would provide financial security in retirement; yet for many, that promise is now in jeopardy. Pension plans are on the brink of bankruptcy. Employers, workers, and retirees are stretched thin, and a Federal insurance agency is on the path to insolvency.
The multiemployer pension system is a ticking time bomb. When the bomb goes off, businesses will close their doors, workers will be laid off, taxpayers will be on the hook for a multibillion-dollar bailout, and retirees will have their benefits cut or wiped out entirely.
A crisis is staring us in the face, and the question we have to answer is: Will we act? Will we do what is right and necessary to help fix this problem? Or will we simply kick the can down the road? I believe we have a public duty and a moral responsibility to act.
My Democratic colleague, George Miller, and I have worked hard to craft a bipartisan legislative response to this looming disaster. With the help of our friend, Dr. Phil Roe, and the work of many employers and union leaders, we have reached agreement on a series of reforms that offer the best chance we have to protect taxpayers, working families, and retirees.
Our bipartisan proposal includes tough medicine for a pension system in critical condition. It requires higher premiums so the Federal backstop can meet its obligations without taxpayer assistance. It also provides new tools to trustees to help plans avoid insolvency, including the ability to adjust benefits.
Let me be clear: if we reject this bill and continue the status quo, benefits will be cut. It is only a matter of time.
As plans go under, the Federal Government inflicts maximum pain on the maximum number of people, but if we offer trustees more flexibility, they can avoid insolvency and provide retirees greater financial security. We have a choice between an axe in the hand of a first-year med student or a scalpel in the hand of a trusted surgeon.
This isn't easy. No matter what happens, retirees will face some difficult hardships. That is why the proposal includes numerous protections, but most importantly, it ensures all retirees are better off than if we did nothing.
This isn't a perfect solution. I am disappointed we couldn't do more to provide workers more options to plan for their retirement. Make no mistake, this is the first step in addressing a tough problem, and it won't be the last.
Despite its shortcomings, this is a strong proposal that deserves our support. We cannot let this opportunity pass by. This problem will be harder to solve after the bomb goes off. I urge my [[Page H9282]] colleagues to do what is in the best interest of workers, employers, and retirees by supporting this bipartisan agreement.
Before I close, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank some members of the staff who worked day and night to make this happen, starting with my staff director, Juliane Sullivan, and workforce policy director, Ed Gilroy. I also want to thank Brian Kennedy, Megan O'Reilly, and Julia Krahe of Mr. Miller's staff for all of their hard work.
Last, but certainly not least, I would like to offer my deep appreciation to a trusted member of my team, Andy Banducci. Andy has poured more time and energy into this effort than anyone else, and he has earned the right to a good night's sleep.
Finally, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my colleague, George Miller, who will leave this Chamber after 40 years of public service. Without his courage and determination to do what is right, this effort would not have been possible; through it all, he has been a trusted friend and ally.
George has long been a tireless advocate for working families from the start of his distinguished career down to these final moments in Congress. He will leave behind a lasting mark on the House and the Education and Workforce Committee.
We haven't agreed on every issue, but in the fine tradition of our committee, we have always found a way to disagree without being disagreeable. I have no doubt he will remain a powerful voice for students, teachers, and working families.
George, thank you for your service and your friendship. I wish you and your wife, Cynthia, and family all the best.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.