The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems vowed to fight an effort in Congress to unwind state and local government initiatives to enhance retirement security for millions of private-sector employees.
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Two resolutions introduced February 8 would attempt to block federal regulations to facilitate the creation of public-private partnerships to expand workplace retirement savings options. Relying on flawed analysis, the resolutions—H.J. Res. 66 and H.J. Res. 67—are designed to derail innovative programs being implemented in seven states and evaluated in at least 25 more.
“The alternative facts advanced by the sponsors of these resolutions ignore reality,” said Hank H. Kim, NCPERS executive director and counsel. “These state-led retirement savings programs would be responsibly managed for the benefit of savers and only savers, would meet the needs of employers, and would ultimately save taxpayers billions of dollars.”
States and municipalities have spent several years developing savings programs for the 55 million Americans—half of the private-sector workforce—whose employers offer no retirement benefits. Kim noted that the Employee Benefit Research Institute has pegged the retirement income deficit among workers currently 25 to 64 years of age at $4 trillion.
“States, in their time-honored role as laboratories for innovation, have come up with programs that combine the best of public- and private sector approaches, based on years of rigorous research and study,” Kim explained. “It is astonishingly hypocritical that lawmakers who claim to favor private-sector solutions and state autonomy would try to prevent partnerships that promote both.”
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington have already enacted legislation to help private-sector employers automatically enroll their employees in workplace retirement savings programs, called Secure Choice plans after a model program developed by NCPERS in 2011. In 2016, the Department of Labor issued regulations to facilitate the creation of these public-private plans after confirming that the Secure Choice programs are permissible under the provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. The resolutions seek to revoke these so-called safe-harbor provisions for state and local programs, respectively.
The resolutions were introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL).
The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) is the largest trade association for public sector pension funds, representing more than 500 funds throughout the United States and Canada. It is a unique non-profit network of public trustees, administrators, public officials and investment professionals who collectively manage more than $3 trillion in pension assets. Founded in 1941, NCPERS is the principal trade association working to promote and protect pensions by focusing on advocacy, research and education for the benefit of public sector pension stakeholders.