DEMOCRATS CONTROL WEP/GPO PROSPECTS

JAN 2007 - Like many members, retired Marshfield teacher Edris Kelley had held out hope that change would come to the power structure in Washington, D.C., sooner rather than later. While the life-long Democrat longed for political change, it was not based entirely on partisan principles alone.

Members,
who have been impacted by the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), have grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on Capitol Hill with legislation to provide relief from the two devastating laws.

The restlessness with Congressional inaction has stretched well beyond the borders of Massachusetts. In addition to the Commonwealth, public employees in six other states (CA, CO, IL, LA, OH, and TX) do not participate in Social Security. Like Association members, these retirees are spread throughout the country.

In November, when the voters spoke and returned the Republicans to minority status in Washington, the discontent was deeper than the war in Iraq and anger over Congressional scandals. Association members, among others, had grown increasingly frustrated with inaction in Washington on issues such as the WEP/GPO, healthcare reform, and pension protection.

Longtime Republican Congressmen, such as Florida’s Clay Shaw, were sent packing. Shaw’s Gold Coast District is home to several hundred Association members, many of whom supported Democrat Ron Klein, who beat Shaw by a margin of 53-47%.

“There is no question that the issue of Social Security reform played a role in places like Florida, which is heavily populated with retirees from Massachusetts and the other non-Social Security states. Clay Shaw and the Republican Leadership from the House and Senate blocked the WEP/GPO repeal bills from being voted on,” said Legislative Liaison Shawn Duhamel. “Our Association’s leaders and our members never gave up. Retirees, like Edris Kelley, kept the pressure on our own delegation to keep this issue alive.”

Over the last two years, we have been reporting that legislation, H.R. 147, filed by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) with 308 cosponsors, would repeal the WEP/GPO laws. However, outgoing Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery, backed by GOP leaders, was intractable in refusing to release H.R. 147 to the floor for a vote.

“With new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) naming her own chairmen, we feel confident that any legislation dealing with WEP/GPO will be able to get a full hearing before the House and Senate. “It’s an opportunity that our members have been waiting for - a chance for their congressmen to actually vote on this issue and an opportunity for our Association and its membership to show its lobbying
strength,” says Association President Ralph White.

Hope of congressional action on the WEP/GPO issue is bolstered by the fact that Pelosi, who hails from San Francisco, is a cosponsor of H.R. 147. California is the largest of the non-Social Security states, with well over a million retirees and employees impacted.

In the US Senate, Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has been the lead advocate for a full WEP/GPO repeal. Feinstein has worked closely with Senator Ted Kennedy and others to build bipartisan support in the Senate to act on the issue.

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