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Hearing of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions - Subcommittee on Retirement Security and Aging "A Pension Double Header: Reforming Hybrid and ...

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions - Subcommittee on Retirement Security ad Aging "A Pension Double Header: Reforming Hybrid and Multiemployer Pension Plans"

As prepared

Good morning and welcome.

I call to order this hearing of the Subcommittee on Retirement Security and Aging.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my strong support for hybrid pension plans and for multiemployer plans. Both types of plans provide valuable retirement security for millions of workers. Both plans, however, are in trouble right now.

This hearing will explore the causes of uncertainty for hybrids and multiemployer plans. For hybrids, it is conflicting legal opinion. For multis, the problem is financial uncertainty. We must find ways to clear barriers out of the way so the plans can thrive.

I am encouraged by the proposals that are being offered to address the legal and economic problems of these plans. At the first hearing of this Subcommittee in April, in talking about the current crisis in the private pension system, I said that a taxpayer bailout is not an option. The witnesses at today's hearing are not coming here hat in hand -- they are presenting real-life concerns and offering real-world solutions. In the case of the multiemployer plans, today's witnesses are united in their commitment to getting the financial affairs in order -- without a taxpayer bailout.

We will hear from two panels of extremely qualified witnesses. The first panel will focus on the funding problems of the multiemployer pension plans and legislative proposals designed to restore stability and solvency. First to speak will be Randy DeFrehn, Executive Director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans. Mr. DeFrehn is perhaps the most knowledgeable person on the extremely complicated issue of multiemployer plans, and I look forward to his clear and concise presentation.

Following Mr. DeFrehn will be Tim Lynch, President and CEO of the Motor Freight Carriers Association, who will testify to the current funding crisis and discuss proposals being offered by a broad coalition of management and union groups.

Next, we will hear from Mr. Jeffrey Noddle, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of SUPERVALU, INC., America's largest food wholesaler and seventh largest grocery retailer. In Ohio, we know Bigg's grocery very well. Senator Mikulski, no doubt, has had the occasion to shop at Shopper's Food Warehouse. We look forward to hearing from Mr. Noddle about the views of the Food Marketing Institute, and how they would have us reform the law on multiemployer plans.

Closing out the first panel will be Mr. John Ward, President of Standard Forwarding Co., Inc., a trucking firm based in East Moline, Illinois. His firm is perhaps the exception -- a growing trucking company that is adding new active participants to the Teamsters Central States pension fund. He will express his concerns about some of the proposed multiemployer reforms and how they impact small firms. Mr. Ward is appearing on behalf of the Multiemployer Pension Plan Alliance.

The second panel will discuss the important issue of hybrid pension plans. These most typically are cash balance plans or pension equity plans. The first witness is William Sweetnam, an attorney with the Groom Law Group in Washington, DC. Mr. Sweetnam will be delivering the testimony of James Delaplane, who was supposed to appear today but was called out of town for a family emergency. Both Mr. Sweetnam and Mr. Delaplane represent the American Benefits Council. It is a public policy organization representing principally Fortune 500 companies and other organizations that assist employers in providing benefits to employees.

We will also hear from Ellen Collier, Director of Benefits at the Eaton Corporation in Cleveland. Her company, a diversified industrial manufacturer with over 27,000 employees in 100 locations in the United States, converted to a hybrid pension plan design. She will describe the process and care with which the company undertook such a change.

Finally, we are pleased to have as a witness David Certner, Director of Federal Affairs for AARP. Mr. Certner is well known to the members of this Committee, and we once again appreciate his willingness to testify.

In concluding my opening statement, I want to point out that it is my understanding that Chairman Enzi intends to move a comprehensive reform bill out of the HELP Committee this summer before the August recess. Meeting that schedule will take hard work and a high degree of bi-partisan cooperation. This hearing today is testimony to the willingness of Republicans and Democrats to work together to solve our country's pension problems. Both sides want to get these issues out in the open and resolved. With that, I turn it over to Senator Mikulski for any opening comments she would like to make.

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