Senator Lisa Murkowski has joined a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues in introducing legislation designed to make it easier for charities and rural cooperatives to offer pension plans. The Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act of 2013 (CSEC) would make permanent a provision exempting charities and rural cooperatives across the country from participating in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), which impedes these unique organizations from providing pension benefits to their employees.
"Alaska's rural electric cooperatives and small employer charities, like the Girl Scouts, deserve to give their employees the certainty provided by pensions," said Senator Lisa Murkowski. "Many participate in multiple-employer plans but the current rules of the Pension Protection Act aren't working for dozens of these organizations, presenting the unfortunate choice between adjusting pensions downward or cutting services. This act will amend current law to provide the flexibility these organizations need to continue providing great service while offering their employees more security."
The PPA, when signed into law in 2006, changed the way pensions were funded in the United States in order to protect participants from deteriorating and failing programs. Congress acknowledged multiple-employer pension plans did not meet the requirements establishes under the PPA, in large part due to the limited risks they pose on defaulting on benefits, and provided a short-term exemption. This exemption was later expanded in the Pension Relief Act of 2010 to include eligible charities. The temporary exemption is set to expire and leave a growing number of rural-cops and charities without the flexibility to participate in programs that meet their specific needs.
Senator Murkowski was joined Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Al Franken (D-MN) in introducing this legislation supported by a coalition of 33 rural electric cooperatives and charitable multiple employer pension plans like the Girl Scouts of America, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the United Way, Christian Schools International, the Rural Broadband Association and United Benefits Group.
Alaska Power Association's Executive Director Marilyn Leland expressed her gratitude and thanks for the Senator Murkowski's support for CSEC as part of the defined-benefit multiple-employer pension plan sponsored by NRECA.
"I thank Senator Murkowski for being a co-sponsor of the "Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act," said Marilyn Leland, Executive Director of Alaska Power Association. "She understands how significantly it will positively impact our members' ability to recruit and retain a top quality workforce. Our employees are the backbone of our core mission to provide, safe, affordable, and reliable "at-cost' electricity."