Congress Holds Hearings On GPO/WEP Relief

JULY 2003
- Threat Of Mandatory Social Security Looms Again - In sharp contrast to past congressional sessions, there is action
early in this (108th) Congress on Social Security's Government Pension
Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). According to
Association Legislative Chairman Bill Hill, "During the last (107th)
session, a hearing on the WPO and WEP was conducted when only a few
months remained in the session, leaving little time for the Congress to
take further action. "This time around, a hearing was held just four
months into the session."

With
the state budget debate ongoing in the State House, it wasn't possible
for Association officials to attend the subcommittee hearing. We did,
however, submit a written statement calling for repeal of these onerous
laws.

One of those, who was able to
attend and address the subcommittee, was Congressman Barney Frank. As
we've reported earlier, Rep. Frank has re-introduced his WEP relief
bill (HR 2011), which exempts those, with less than $24,000 in annual
pension and SS benefits, from the WEP and offers partial relief for
those with less than $36,000.

Among
the others to testify was California's Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon who is
calling for elimination of both GPO and WEP in his bill (HR 594). While
supporting legislation like Rep. Frank's bill, our Association believes
that the Congress should eventually repeal both laws.

"There's
no doubt that the coalition - CARE - was instrumental in persuading the
subcommittee to schedule this hearing so early in the session,"
comments Hill. "Now we're hard at work getting as many cosponsors as
possible on the relief bills."

CARE
(Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity) has been meeting to map out
strategy. As a coalition member, our Association will not only be
working with the Mass. congressional delegation, but will also be
reaching out beyond the Commonwealth's borders.

"We've
been asked to contact our members who are living in other states where
the coalition is seeking the support of their congressmen," reports
Hill. "We've done this before and our members have always responded."

At
presstime, CARE has scheduled briefing sessions on the GPO and WEP with
congressmen and their staffs. These sessions are another approach being
utilized by the coalition at this time, in order to maximize support
for relief.

Coalition Speaks Out Against Mandatory Social Security

Along
with the good news, sometimes there is some bad news. In this case, the
threat of mandatory social security is looming once again.

A
year ago, we reported that the President's Commission to Strengthen
Social Security had not recommended that newly hired public employees
for non-Social Security states, like Massachusetts, be mandated into
the federal program (March 2002 Voice). At that time, we cautioned that
the threat of mandatory Social Security would continue, and so it has.

During
its hearing, the subcommittee heard testimony not only on the GPO and
WEP but also on mandatory Social Security coverage. "We're not
surprised by these developments since mandatory Social Security has
been proposed by opponents to true GPO and WEP relief over the years,"
states Hill.

In addition to CARE,
the Association has been involved with CPRS (Coalition to Preserve
Retirement Security) whose primary objective is to stop mandatory
Social Security. It is estimated that if Social Security coverage was
mandated throughout the Commonwealth, it would conservatively cost the
state and municipalities $2 billion over ten years.

CPRS,
whose members represent about 4.1 million public retirees and
employees, took the opportunity before the subcommittee to speak out.
"Mandatory Social Security coverage will only extend Social Security's
solvency by two years, but could destabilize public pension systems
nationwide," stated CPRS's chair, Teresa Harrison from Ohio's State
Teachers Retirement System.

According
to Association President Ralph White, "It's clear that mandatory Social
Security is not the answer to GPO and WEP relief and should not be
factored into the debate. And, it is not the answer to Social
Security's future solvency as the President's special commission
apparently recognized just last year."

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