Contrary to much else in Washington D.C. these days, there appears to be bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate to reform and develop the ability of Americans to have access to — and save for — retirement. I recently sat down to discuss this issue with Paul J. Richmond, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), the leading financial services trade association for the retirement income industry.
“Bipartisan support” is a seldom heard term these days. Does retirement reform have bipartisan supporter in Congress?
Paul Richmond: Yes. Historically, the issue of retirement security has been a bipartisan issue. There’s always been champions on both sides of the aisle, working together to try to bring forward the retirement issues to the forefront and get legislation enacted. The last major reform was done back in 2006, with the Pension Protection Act.
Can you update us on the Senate’s recent efforts to enact reform legislation?
Paul Richmond: The Senate just introduced the bill. They were waiting to see if the House would move first, which they did through tax reform — enacting several [reform] measures. There is now discussions going on between the staffs of the two chambers on the Ways and Means Committee staff, and the Finance Committee staff, to try to work out a compromise — a comprehensive bill that they could act on.
Tell us a bit about the Senate’s plan.
Paul Richmond: There’s a number of provisions. The biggest one is the open multiple employer plan provision [or MEP]. That would allow small businesses to band together to offer retirement plans to their employees. Currently, the law has a couple barriers that prevent that – provisions in the legislation would remove those.
Do they address auto-enrollment, or give tax credits to small business owners for starting up plans?
Paul Richmond: The bill that the House passed did not include those provisions. But we’re hopeful that during negotiations with the Senate, those could be included in the bill.
If retirement reform isn’t passed this year, would they pick it up next year?
Paul Richmond: We would be hopeful that they would, because it is a bill that has garnered so much support. it could be an easy bill to do upfront — before [legislators] have to get into more contentious issues that they may face next year — to show the
American public that the Congress can work and get something done to help people.
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