April 8, 2004
Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004 - Conference Report
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I would like the record to show my views on the conference on H.R. 3108, the Pension Funding Equity Act. The conference report includes several provisions that I support. Most important among them is funding relief for single-employer defined-benefit pension plans, which will aid 35 million workers. The conference report also closes a huge tax loophole utilized by the wealthiest Americans to shield investment income known as the small insurance company loophole, or Section 501©(15). I applaud the work that crafted these provisions. I am particularly pleased that the pensions of hard-working Americans in the auto, steel, airline and other industries will have safer pensions and more secure retirements. I strongly support these provisions, and I can understand why many of my colleagues will cast a vote for this conference report.
The problem, and the reason for my opposition to the overall conference report, is that it provides hardly any relief for millions of Americans participating in multi-employer pension plans, despite strong bipartisan support for such relief in the original Senate bill. The Senate bill provided relief to all multi-employer plans, and that bill passed the Senate by the overwhelming vote of 86 to 9. After that, the conferees agreed on a bipartisan basis to limit relief to the 20 percent of plans that most needed it. But then, we have been told, the White House insisted that multi-employer relief be essentially gutted. I regret that the White House and the Republican conferees, on a strictly partisan basis, have done this. It means that nearly 10 million Americans who participate in multi-employer pension plans have been cast aside for no good reason.
The Republicans' insistence that multi-employer relief be stripped from the legislation, despite overwhelming Senate support for more widespread relief, also means that America's small businesses that participate in multi-employer plans will receive very little help. As ranking member on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I believe that to ignore small business is to ignore the great engine of our economy. More jobs are created in America by small businesses than any other sector of our economy.
Just a week ago, President Bush claimed that "the small business agenda is vibrant and foremost on our agenda." He said that it's important to reduce taxes, so "small businesses have got more money to invest and to expand." But at the same time the White House was pulling the rug out from under thousands of small businesses. More than half of the 65,000 employers in multi-employer plans are small businesses-real small businesses run by real families. So despite the President's rhetoric about small business, the White House has refused to help small business owners provide more secure pensions for themselves and their workers. These small businesses won't be able to invest and expand because they'll be paying excise taxes imposed by the IRS due to the crisis in their pension plans.
Mr. President, I support funding relief for single-employer plans. I am very glad that Congress has acted to help Americans participating in those plans. I am also glad to see tax loopholes closed whenever possible. But I regret that the Senate, after voting 86 to 9 to help Americans in both single-employer and multi-employer plans, is now leaving nearly 10 million Americans and thousands of small businesses out in the cold.·