State Legislative Update
Budget negotiations are beginning and we want legislators to remember the importance of maintaining the PEBB Medicare subsidy in the budget. Therefore, we have a CALL-IN DAY April 19th. Please keep in mind that even if you are not impacted by this issue, we ask that you make the call, because numbers translate into Retiree Power and we are stronger when we support one another.
The last day of regular session is Sunday, April 23rd. We anticipate the Governor calling a special session (each special session is a rolling 30 days); it is unknown at this point whether the Governor will call legislators back immediately or give them a small break first. Many people on the hill anticipate that budget negotiators will want to take into account the June 20th revenue forecast (meaning special sessions will go at least until June 20th). Given that prolonged time period, the Governor may release rank and file legislators back to their districts (otherwise the state is required to continue to pay them a per diem for being in Olympia). If legislators go back to their district for the first special session, it is very important that RPEC members meet with them to advocate that the PEBB Medicare subsidy restoration, included in the House budget, be included in the final budget agreement. We do not want them to put our issues on the backburner.
A couple of other bills we support passed this week including HB 1709 (authorizing the transfer of public employees’ retirement system service credit to the public safety employees’ retirement system due to differing definitions of full-time), as did 5274 (authorizing the transfer of public employees’ retirement system (PERS) service credit to the public safety employees’ retirement system (PSERS) due to differing definitions of full-time).
As previously mentioned, while SB 5179 (requires coverage for hearing instruments under public employee and Medicaid programs) has not yet passed, it could certainly still be part of the end game negotiations.
Elimination of Payroll Taxes a Road to Eliminating Social Security?
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – Amid reports that President Trump is abandoning the tax plan that was a part of his campaign, officials in the White House are considering eliminating FICA tax contributions, the payroll deductions that are the primary means of funding Social Security. Without employee and employer contributions to the Social Security trust funds, Social Security would have to compete with every other federal program for funding.
Given the GOP’s willingness to cut Social Security in Congress, the guaranteed benefits that Social Security offers current and future retirees and people with disabilities would be in jeopardy. Eliminating the program’s funding source would be a gateway to eliminating the program.
Trump promised not to cut Social Security — or Medicare or Medicaid — during the campaign. However, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said in February that he thought Trump would be open to making changes that would affect future Social Security beneficiaries. This plan would blatantly break Trump’s pledge.
Administration is Open to Medicare Privatization, Cuts to Social Security
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – In an interview that aired on CNBC Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney — a former House member — kept the door open for President Trump to approve an overhaul of Medicare or Social Security if it were put forward by the Congress.
Asked by reporter John Harwood whether the president would veto the privatization of Medicare if it were passed by Congress, since he promised not to cut the program, Mulvaney urged Congress to pass the legislation and then said the Administration and Congress should “talk about it.”
Harwood also questioned Mulvaney about whether Social Security Disability Insurance could be cut. Mulvaney said that he didn’t think the administration had decided that yet, but added that he would like to “fix” that program, saying it is “one of the fastest growing programs that we have.”
Mulvaney went on to say that “entitlement reform” is on the table. “There’s a lot of entitlement reform other than just how old do you have to be to get your Social Security benefits,” he declared.
“High-level Trump appointees are still pushing Paul Ryan’s dream of privatizing Medicare and slashing Social Security for disabled people and retirees,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Peters, Jr. “The Social Security disability program is, in fact, not broken and is financially sound. It is important that Alliance members remain vigilant and active so we can stop these attacks on vulnerable citizens.”
What’s Next in Congress?
From the Northwest Health Law Advocates – As Congress is in recess from now until April 21st, this is a good time to catch up on what’s happening and make your voice heard. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening and what we can expect to happen next from Community Catalyst:
What’s Happened So Far?
- In early January, Congress passed a budget resolution with instructions to develop the language for a budget reconciliation package.
- The House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce committees were tasked with drafting the actual language in the budget reconciliation package.
- In early March, both committees voted to pass their pieces of the reconciliation language and sent them to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee also passed the legislation and sent it to the House Rules Committee.
- On the morning of March 24th, the House Rules committee voted to pass the bill.
- That afternoon, the Speaker of the House pulled the legislation from the floor of the House and announced that there would not be a vote on the bill. The legislation was returned to the House Rules Committee.
- Congress is currently on recess until April 21st.
- When members of Congress return to Washington the last week in April, they will turn their attention to the continuing resolution (often called a “CR” funding running government) which expires April 28th.
- A continuing resolution is a type of appropriations legislation that permits the federal government to continue operating under current spending levels. It is used when Congress and the President have not agreed on a budget for the entire fiscal year.
- We anticipate that Congress will pass another continuing resolution by the April 28th deadline.
Starting the first week in May. we expect that Congress will again turn its attention to repealing the Affordable Care Act.
As you can see, we have much work to do in the weeks and months ahead to continue the betterment of your retirement security. Your continued support and political action is a necessity!
Your Voice for Retirement Security!