Social Security Remains Hot Topic

MARCH 2004
- State Officials Push For Federal Change - While Social Security is a national program that is governed entirely
by federal law, several state legislators are doing what they can to
push Congress towards repealing both the Government Pension Offset
(GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

As
we have been regularly reporting, the Association has significantly
stepped up its efforts to effect a repeal of both laws. In hiring
expert lobbyists, making frequent trips to Capitol Hill, and enlisting
the grassroots efforts of our members spread throughout the country,
the Association is leaving no stone unturned.

Our
efforts, along with the plea for help from retirees, have caught the
attention of state legislators, many of whom have asked the Association
what they can do to help. In response, House Minority Leader Brad Jones
(R-North Reading) and Senator Sue Tucker (D-Andover) have each filed
resolutions in their respective chambers.

In
citing the injustice and hardships caused by both the GPO and WEP, both
petitions call upon the Congress to immediately repeal the two laws.
Both petitions were passed by the Legislature, signed by the governor
and have been forwarded to the Congressional Leadership.

"These
laws are so devastating to public retirees that we could not just sit
back and do nothing to help. Even though the GPO and WEP are federal
laws, we at the state level still need to do everything in our power to
help retirees," said Representative Jones. "I hope that by pushing the
Congress and the President to take action, we can make these changes
happen."

"I continue to hear from
constituents, many of whom are single or widowed women, who are facing
financial hardship because of the GPO and the WEP. These laws have to
change and all of us need to do our part to make it happen," explains
Senator Tucker.

Washington Watch

Members,
expecting or otherwise hoping for a quick resolution on the GPO and WEP
issues, may be disappointed to learn that congressional activity on
both bills has once again quieted down.

Last
fall, we reported that the U.S. Senate was poised to take action on a
bill (HR743) designed to close a controversial loophole in the GPO law,
whereby some states were getting around the offset. At that time a
number of Senators, including MA Senators Kennedy and Kerry, fought to
include a provision that would have reduced the GPO penalty by as much
as 50%.

Unfortunately, with the
financial cost of such a change set to run into the billions of
dollars, our Senate supporters were forced to back down. In addition,
as the bill moved towards the Senate floor for passage, GPO opponents
began to talk of a more cautious change to the law that would have only
reduced the penalty by roughly 10%, rather than the 50% that had been
discussed earlier.

Another issue
that surfaced during discussions on HR743 was mandatory Social
Security. As those interested in amending the bill to change the GPO
law lobbied, word began to circulate that Senators from states paying
into Social Security were discussing an amendment on mandatory Social
Security.

"When we got word that
mandatory coverage had once again emerged, we immediately contacted
Senator Kennedy, who in turn threatened to block the bill's passage if
the provision were included," said Association Legislative Liaison
Shawn Duhamel. "The Senator stopped the proposed amendment, but
unfortunately we had to forgo the GPO amendment.

"Our
next step is to keep the pressure on the Congress. This is going to be
a long hard-fought process, but one that we will win. Being an election
year, 2004 is going to be a tough year. Members should stay positive,
but not expect miracles to happen overnight."

Association
officials are currently working with with other members of CARE
(Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity) to get the WEP/GPO repeal bills
discharged from the Subcommittee on Social Security. We continue to
work closely with the staff of E. Clay Shaw, the Florida Congressman
who chairs that subcommittee. (See related article on p. 11.) Shaw has
been seeking support from the Republican leadership in the House to
move a bill from his committee that would reform the GPO law. As of
press time, no date had been set for action to take place.

"There
is no question that our members in Florida have caught the attention of
their congressmen. I thank those members who took, and will take, the
time to call and write on behalf of their fellow retirees," continued
Duhamel.

Tags: