WASHINGTON D.C. — The Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension, co-chaired by Sen. Sherrod Brown, held its first of five meetings this past Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Sen. Rob Portman is also a member of the bi-partisan committee.
Formed to solve a pension crisis affecting 60,000 Ohioans and 1.5 million workers, the 16-member panel has until the end of Nov. 30 to shape a bill solving the pension problems caused by the Great Recession. Brown fought to create the committee during budget talks in February.
The pension that most affects Ohio is an account ran by Central States, which is slated to run out of money in the next two decades. A small percentage of available pensions, some 200 plans, face the same issues according the the Pension Rights Center.
Many unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have supported the formation of the committee.
“This isn’t a partisan issue. Teamsters, mineworkers, ironworkers, carpenters, bakers, and so many other Americans — people who are members of both parties — are at risk of massive cuts to the pensions they earned,” Brown said during his opening statement. “My colleagues on both sides of the aisle all understand the need to work together in good faith to keep the promise made to these workers. That’s what I know we are going to be able to use this committee to do. “
During Portman’s address to the committee, he warned its members about taking political sides without fixing the issue at hand. Democrats on the panel had met prior to Wednesday’s meeting.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, I really do,” Portman said. “But it’s only an opportunity if we really look at this differently, including me, and figure out how we go to the data, go to the information, come up with a longer-term solution that works and, you know, not be stuck on our individual biases or strong opinions as to what we think might be best. We got to sell this to our colleagues. We’ve got to sell to all of our colleagues.”
The committee is comprised of eight senators and eight house leaders equally divided between both parties.
Brown and Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat on the panel, introduced a bill this past November that would form a Treasury Department agency that could sell low-interest bonds to pension holders in order to save troubled accounts. The bill has since sat in committee review in the House.
Brown said he would like the panel to come up with a more than a single option to address the issue.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.