This is where I will address the common questions and concerns that you might have in relation to The Butch Lewis Act, the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans (JSCSMPP), & the Brown-Neal Proposal.
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The JSCSMPP was responsible for delivering a report and, potentially, proposed legislation to Congress by November 30, 2018 to address the multiemployer pension crisis. Despite some progress, the JSCSMPP failed to reach a consensus and did not deliver a report or recommendation to Congress.
JSCSMPP Co-Chairs, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), issued the following press release on November 30, 2018:
- “The problems facing our multiemployer pension system are multifaceted and over the years have proven to be incredibly difficult to address. Despite these challenges and a highly-charged political environment, we have made meaningful progress toward a bipartisan proposal to address the shortcomings in the system to improve retirement security for workers and retirees while also providing certainty for small businesses that participate in multiemployer plans.
- While it will not be possible to finalize a bipartisan agreement before November 30, we believe a bipartisan solution is attainable, and we will continue working to reach that solution.
- We understand that the longer that these problems persist, the more burdensome and expensive for taxpayers they become to address, and we are committed to working toward a final agreement as quickly as possible.
- We would like to thank all the members of the Joint Select Committee for their hard work and continued dedication to addressing the issues that plague the multiemployer system. It has not been an easy job and all of their contributions have been, and will continue to be, vital to our work.”
Theoretically some of the proposals discussed by the JSCSMPP could, as the result of ongoing negotiations, end up in an omnibus budget bill that Congress will work on in December, 2018.
Absent that, it appears that Democrats in the House will reintroduce the Butch Lewis Act when the 116th Congress convenes in January, 2019 (although it may not be introduced immediately in that Congress). Since Democrats control a majority in the House it is anticipated that they will be able to clear the chamber with the Butch Lewis Act and send it to the Senate. The fate of the legislation in the Senate is a more open question as 13 Republican Senators would have to vote with all of the Democratic Senators and both Independent Senators to get 60 votes necessary for cloture. So far, no Republican Senators have publicly stated their support for the Butch Lewis Act.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1) have endorsed and presented a proposal (the “Brown-Neal Proposal”) to the JSCSMPP for consideration. The JSCSMPP is responsible for delivering a report and, potentially, proposed legislation to Congress by November 30, 2018
The proposal would establish the Pension Rehabilitation Agency (PRA) within the United States Treasury Department with the authority to issue bonds to failing multiemployer pension plans so that pension cuts would no longer be required. Key features:
- Plans would be eligible for PRA loans if they are in the critical and declining funding status. This would mean that the Fund would be eligible for a loan.
- PRA loans would be provided in five year intervals. In other words, if the Fund was approved for a loan on January 1, 2019, the loan would be in an amount that would keep the Fund solvent, without benefit cuts, until December 31, 2023. If the Fund was still in critical and declining status as of January 1, 2024, it would be eligible for an additional loan to keep the Fund solvent until December 31, 2029.
- Interest paid by the Fund would generally be 0.2% above the 30 Treasury bond rate at the time the loan was issued. As of the end of September, 2018, the 30 Treasury bond rate was 3.19%, so a PRA loan issued as of that date would include interest of 3.39%.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the proposal as costing $34 billion. This may look large, but the CBO scored the cost of propping the PBGC up as $78 billion. Comparatively, the Brown-Neal Proposal is currently the least expensive solution to the multiemployer pension crisis that does not include pension cuts.
Senator Brown’s office posted the following press release: Butch Lewis Act Costs Less Than Half The Price Of Propping Up
Also, the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund issued the following: Economic Impact: Multiemployer Plans in Critical and Critical and Declining Status
The “Butch Lewis Act of 2017” is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1) to address financially insolvent multiemployer pension plans. The Senate bill is designated as S. 2147 and the House bill is designated H.R. 4444. Both the Senate bill and the House bill remain in Committee. There was speculation that the Butch Lewis Act might be included in the Bipartisan Budget Act that the President signed into law on February 9, 2018, but it was not.
Instead, the Budget Act established a Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans. The bipartisan Committee will be composed of members from both houses of Congress in an attempt to “significantly improve solvency of multiemployer pension plans and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation”. The Committee is to vote on a report, not later than November 30, 2018, containing a detailed statement of findings, conclusions, and recommendations and proposed legislative language to carry out their recommendations.
The Committee will include 16 members, consisting of 8 members from the House and 8 members from the Senate and an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. If a majority of members from each party agree on a compromise (5 Democrats and 5 Republicans), the Committee’s recommendation is guaranteed an expedited vote in both the House and the Senate with no amendments. This expedited vote would occur no later than the last day of the 115th Congress (January 3, 2019).
The Senators appointed to the Committee are Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Tina Smith (D-MN). House representatives appointed to the Committee are Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Richard Neal (D-MA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Phil Roe (R-TN), David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Bobby Scott (D-VA). Senators Brown and Hatch are the Committee’s co-chairs.
I have personally written letters to all 16 of these committee members to offer my viewpoint. You can take action too by writing letters to any or all of these committee members and we have provided you with a sample letter, along with their addresses, and emails here:
The “Butch Lewis Act of 2017” is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1). The Senate bill is designated as S. 2147 and the House bill is designated H.R. 4444.
If passed into law as drafted, the Butch Lewis Act would rescue retirees of troubled pension plans, like you and me, by providing federal loans to the plans enabling them to avoid pension cuts. I encourage you to read more about the Butch Lewis Act at the IBT's website.
I wanted to provide some updates regarding the Butch Lewis Act since my first FAQ about it:
- H.R. 4444 was referred the Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committees on Ways and Means, and Appropriations, where it is currently being considered
- S. 2147 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, where it is being considered
- On December 20, 2017, Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) cosponsored S. 2147, the Senate version of the Butch Lewis Act
- Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) is not yet a cosponsor of H.R. 4444, the House version of the Butch Lewis Act, but his office confirmed that he has asked to be a cosponsor
- I’m not getting political, just reporting the facts: as of this post, S. 2147 been cosponsored by 13 Senators – all Democrats, and H.R. 4444 has been cosponsored by 106 Congressmen and women – all Democrats
- Although the Butch Lewis Act does not currently have a single Republican cosponsor, I have been contacted by the offices of Congressmen Mike Kelly (R-PA-3) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12)
- The representatives of Congressmen Kelly and Rothfus indicated that they are aware that the MPRA pension cuts are an important issue to many of their constituents (i.e., you and me) and that they are open minded to legislation that would address the issue
- Also, on January 2, 2018 Congressman Peter King (R-NY-2) publicly announced his support for the Butch Lewis Act
I strongly encourage you to go to our Letter Campaign page for a model letter you can send to your Congressmen and women and Senators in support of the Butch Lewis Act. Also, please visit my website at www.wpatrr.com to see the letters I recently sent to Western Pennsylvania Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act.
There is also a petition in support of the Butch Lewis Act you can sign online at Change.Org here. I am not endorsing Change.Org, but several of you have asked me about starting a petition and Change.Org already has one, so if you’d like to sign a petition supporting the Butch Lewis Act, you can do so there.
I have received a number of calls lately regarding the “Butch Lewis Act of 2017”, which is a bill that was introduced in Congress on November 16, 2017 by Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio) and Representative Richard Neal (Democrat-Massachusetts). If passed into law as drafted the Butch Lewis Act would rescue retirees of troubled pension plans, like me and you, by providing federal loans to the plans and prohibiting pension cuts. I encourage you to read more about the Butch Lewis Act at the IBT's website.
Personally – and unfortunately – I am not optimistic that the Butch Lewis Act will become law as drafted, at least not right now. Let’s be realistic. The Butch Lewis Act is co-sponsored by two Democrats, Congress and the White House is controlled by Republicans, and we live in an era where bipartisanship is rare. In fact, as of the date of this posting, I am not aware of a single Republican that has publicly supported the Butch Lewis Act.
If you want to see pension rescue legislation like the Butch Lewis Act passed into law you must make your voice heard, not by me but by your Congressmen. In this regard, I would like to share some interesting facts:
- On August 14th, 2017 I launched my website, wpateamstersretireerep.com
- My website includes a “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page – this page includes a model of a letter for you to send to your Congressmen advocating for legislation that would save us all from pension cuts.
- I encouraged all of you – and still encourage you – to send these letters and provided the mailing addresses for all of the Congressmen and Senators representing Western Pennsylvania.
- As of August 14th, 2017, the “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page has been viewed just 621 times, even though there are more than 17,000 retirees and deferred vested participants in the Pension Fund.
- Also available on my “LETTER CAMPAIGN” page are copies of letters I sent to all of the Congressmen and Senators representing Western Pennsylvania and President Trump explaining our dire circumstances and pleading for legislation to right this wrong – I sent this letter on September 22, 2017.
- As of December 11th, 2017, only Representative Mike Doyle’s office (Democrat-PA 14th District) has responded to that letter.
I accepted the responsibility of serving as your Retiree Representative because I am willing to do my part to avoid pension cuts that would significantly impact my life and yours. But, brothers and sisters, I am but one voice and one voter. We all need to do our part if we want to see pension rescue legislation like the Butch Lewis Act passed into law. And to do our part, we must make our voices heard in Congress. No one is coming to save you – we must band together in solidarity and save ourselves.
Please visit my website at wpatrr.com to see the letters I have just sent to Western Pennsylvania Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act. You can also go to www.wpatrr.com for a model letter you should send to your Congressmen in support of the Butch Lewis Act.
I have a favor that I’d like to ask from you…
Please do not spread information regarding the Pension Fund’s MPRA application that you do not personally know to be true. It helps no one and may actually cause others to become upset. If you hear a rumor about this process that worries you, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 724.382.4956 and ask me about it before you pass it along. Please. Thank you.