Portman introduces bill to protect pensions of Ohioans

By Frank Lewis

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On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to protect 48,000 Ohioans from having their pensions cut with no say in the process. Portman said his Pension Accountability Act aims to give workers and retirees a voice when a looming multi-employer pension bankruptcy requires major pension reforms.

“Ohio workers facing potential pension cuts deserve a seat at the table, and this bill fixes that,” Portman said. “It will protect tens of thousands of Ohioans from having their hard-earned pensions cut with no say in the process, and won’t cost taxpayers anything. We must return the democratic process to pension negotiations to ensure that Ohio workers receive fair treatment.”

Portman said the Pension Accountability Act improves the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) in two ways: First, for struggling pension plans seeking cuts, it will make the participant vote binding in all situations. Portman said that will give the workers and retirees a seat at the table to influence the solvency reforms. Their majority vote will be required for any pension cuts to occur.

Secondly, he said it will make this vote fair by counting only the ballots that are returned. Unreturned ballots will no longer be counted as a “yes” vote.

“The Pension Accountability Act, introduced by Senator Rob Portman, guarantees the democratic principle will be upheld, as retirees vote to determine the future of their pensions,” Whitlow Wyatt, spokesman of the Central Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions, said.

The act also got a thumbs-up from a union official.

“The MPRA empowered an unfair voting process, one that did not reflect the accuracy of the votes, as it included votes that were not cast,” Tom Krekeler, Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Retired Teamsters Club, said. “Senator Portman’s Pension Accountability Act will restore democracy to the voting process, which is what every American deserves and expects.”

The Pension Accountability Act has no taxpayer cost. For workers and retirees, including those on a fixed income, who worked hard and dutifully paid into their pension, it guarantees a voice in determining how to return their pension plans to solvency.

Last week, former Ohio governor and current candidate for the U.S. Senate, Ted Strickland said – under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) Ohio workers and retirees will have the opportunity to vote down the plan, but Treasury has the authority to override their votes and allow the cuts to move forward anyway. Strickland says the law should be changed so that the votes of Ohio workers and retirees are binding.

“This is a devastating blow to Ohio families who worked hard with the promise of retiring with the security they’ve earned, and we cannot allow Washington bureaucrats to break that promise against the will of Ohio workers,” Strickland said. “In the coming months, Ohio workers and retirees will have a chance to vote on this plan and when they do, their word should be the final say.”

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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