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Sens. Brown And Portman Start Efforts To Save Pensions

Ohio U.S. Sentators Rob Portman, left, and Sherrod Brown.

A rare House and Senate committee is expected to hold its third hearing Thursday to try to figure how to save pensions for 1.5 million people. The Ohio Democrat who pushed for the bipartisan committee says even more is at stake.

The committee is co-chaired by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Ohio’s other Sen. Rob Portman is a member. It’s charged with figuring out by year’s end what to do about the retirement pensions that cover people such as truck drivers and ironworkers who worked for multiple employers and whose pension funds are running short.

Beyond cutting the retirees’ monthly payments in half, Brown is warning that failure to find a solution could bankrupt small employers and hurt larger ones -- and foreshadow even bigger problems.

“Ultimately, the whole Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, the safety net for the entire pension system of the country, could collapse," Brown said. "That’s what actuarial experts are saying who study pensions all the time that it’s in jeopardy if we don’t do this job by December.”

Brown is backing the Butch Lewis Act, under which the Treasury would sell bonds and make 30-year low-interest loans to the pension funds to become solvent. Brown says Republicans have not yet offered an alternative.