With Republicans taking control of the Senate in Tuesday’s midterm election, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah will replace Sen. Ron Wyden as chairman of the Finance Committee, the powerful arm that oversees retirement policy in the Senate.
Hatch, the committee’s ranking member, has been a leading voice on retirement reform in both the public and private sectors. Last year, he unveiled his Secure Annuities for Employee Retirement Act.
The SAFE Retirement Act champions the extension of open multi-employer plans to small businesses in the private sector, and suggests underfunded public pensions purchase annual annuities to guarantee future benefits, among other things.
BenefitsPro, ThinkAdvisor’s sister site, asked Hatch about the prospects for his proposals to move forward and other items on the eve of the election.
1. Would a Republican victory in the Senate accelerate discussion on retirement reform? Or would it usher in a “small government,” hands-off temperament, reflecting the more conservative stance seen in the House?
Regardless of the outcome of the election, the Secure Annuities for Employee (SAFE) Retirement Act (S. 1270) will be a top legislative priority. Retirement income is a major concern for the middle class, and the challenge of providing lifetime income has never been greater. The SAFE Retirement Act’s Starter 401(k) will encourage employers that don’t have plans to set them up. And my public pension reform proposal, which was given the top grade in the country by the Urban Institute, is the only reform proposal that preserves lifetime income.
2. Improving the country’s retirement readiness would seem to be an area Republicans and Democrats could find common ground. Yet, in your opening remarks in a recent Finance Committee hearing on retirement, you suggested partisan interests threaten reform on retirement issues in ways they have not in the past. What needs to happen to overcome those interests?
Retirement policy has traditionally been an area where Republicans and Democrats work together to help people prepare for a secure retirement. I want it to stay that way, and I’ll certainly do my part to make sure that happens. Hopefully, once the election is over, slogans like “upside-down tax incentives,” “pension stripping” and “the system is rigged” will disappear and we’ll get back to work using facts to help workers save for retirement.
3. In that hearing, there was substantial dissent on the very question of whether or not the country is facing a retirement crisis. In your view, is there a crisis? What happens if we don’t act?