While America’s real GDP fell in 2020, states and local tax receipts actually increased—once you add in federal aid, revenues actually grew by nearly 10 percent. As their costs from fighting the pandemic grew and layoffs loomed, Congress rightly stepped up to help. There’s been $360 billion in direct relief for Covid-19 and hundreds of billions more in indirect aid—all told, Washington sent more than $1 trillion to states and localities last year.
According to an email blast from the Road Carriers 707 Pension Fund on Thursday..
the House Ways and Means Committee reported out (passed) the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act with only technical amendments. The Bill now moves onto the Budget Committee and the Rules Committee. It is expected to move through these Committees without incident and onto a vote on the House floor. As we reported yesterday this Bill is part of a larger Covid Relief Bill expected to be voted on in mid March in the Senate after House passage.
There was a lot of discussion about workers deserving a bailout as they did nothing wrong (trusting politicians, actuaries, and union heads notwithstanding) but what struck me was the perspicacity of Congressman Adrian Smith (R-Nebraska):
Multiemployer pension plans eligible for the program would include plans in critical and declining status, and plans with significant underfunding that have more retirees than active workers in any plan year beginning in 2020 through 2022. Additionally, plans that have suspended benefits and certain plans that have already become insolvent would also be eligible.
The plans would have to apply for the special financial assistance, and, if approved, the payment made by PBGC would be in the form of a single, lump sum. The amount of financial assistance would be equal to the amount required for the plan to pay all benefits due during the period beginning on the date of enactment and ending on the last day of the plan year ending in 2051. Plans would also be required to invest the amounts in investment-grade bonds or other investments as permitted by PBGC.
Legislation before the House Ways & Means Committee plans to help pay for a multiemployer plan bailout by utilizing a budget “gimmick” that would freeze retirement plan contribution limits—though not for collectively bargained plans.
More specifically, the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, included as subtitle H of a nine-part package that the committee plans to mark up this week, would impose a cost-of-living freeze on:
the Code Section 415(c) annual contribution limit for defined contribution plans;
the Section 415(b)(1)(A) annual defined benefit limit; and
the Section 401(a)(17) annual compensation limit.
This appears to be designed to fill a budget hole in the 10-year scoring window—and as such would freeze these limits starting in calendar year 2030. Ironically, it’s scored to lose money in the years leading up to the effective date, apparently anticipating that individuals will be inclined to increase contributions before the limits are imposed.