House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued the following statements after the Department of Education released the framework for an unprecedented college ratings system:
“The same administration that created the HealthCare.gov debacle, now wants to arbitrarily grade and rank our nation’s diverse system of colleges and universities,” said Chairman Kline. “After working for more than a year on this unprecedented scheme, the department clearly hasn’t begun to figure it out. We should be looking for opportunities to empower students and families with information that allows them to make informed decisions. This should be done through commonsense reforms of the law, and there is already strong bipartisan support for such an effort. This so-called college ratings system is a fool’s errand and the secretary needs to stop it immediately.”
Alexander said: “Trying to create yet another complicated, federal system—this time for grading our country's 6,000 colleges and universities—is every bit as impossible and unnecessary as it sounds and is sure to fall flat on its face. Making sure students have access to the information they need to pick the right school is important and something we will discuss during the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but I can’t support letting Washington bureaucrats use taxpayer dollars to fund a higher education popularity contest.”
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There are nearly 11 million workers and retirees across America, including more than 165,000 Minnesotans, who rely on the little known but economically vital multiemployer pension system. Nationwide, this system has an economic impact of approximately $38 billion — with more than $375 million in benefits being paid to Minnesota retirees each year.
Today, many multiemployer pension plans find themselves in jeopardy, including some right here in our state.
Make no mistake: Some of these pension plans are on the brink of insolvency. While most plans are well-funded, including those here in Minnesota, some of the nation’s largest plans are in trouble. If they fail, the fallout will overwhelm the federal backstop, which recently announced that it is facing a $42 billion funding deficit.
If no action is taken, the plans themselves — as well as the government safety net — likely will disappear. That would mean deep, automatic cuts to pensioners and the real risk of businesses needing to close their doors forever.
U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the congressional committee that oversees pensions, has called this issue a “ticking time bomb” that jeopardizes a long-standing promise to so many retirees. Just last week, Kline, along with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., crafted a bipartisan proposal to address this issue.
The proposal has support from both labor and business groups; both the House of Representatives and the Senate recently passed the pension reform legislation. Thankfully, our leaders have acted to address an issue before it became an unmanageable crisis.
As heads of a company with headquarters in Minnesota and of an international labor union, we don’t always see eye to eye on issues, but on this critical matter, we do.
These plans give employees the ability to accrue benefits in industries where frequent job changes are common — such as retail, construction, entertainment or, in our case, the food services industry. Companies contribute to these pension funds on behalf of their employees. These pension plans have existed for decades and, historically, they have been stable pension vehicles for countless families. Today, millions depend on their hard-earned retirement benefits, and employers depend on them to stay competitive and to stay in business.
Like other multiemployer participants, we have taken many steps on our own to ensure that our business, employees and retirees can continue to rely on their plans for both business stability and retirement security. With this action, Congress is providing the critical tools so the plans themselves can take the steps needed to survive in the long term. Congress’s bipartisan action provides the opportunity to keep the majority of multiemployer plans healthier longer — and helps prevent the devastating, automatic cuts that would have come if nothing had been done.
We applaud the efforts on this critical issue.
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After more than three years of public outcry, the Obama board is still determined to impose an ambush election scheme on our nation’s workplaces. This administrative overreach will stifle employers’ free speech, cripple workers’ free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families. It will completely upend an election process that has worked well for decades, one that is fair and designed to foster agreement.
The American people want policies that will set us on the path to a stronger economy, more jobs, and higher wages for working families. This misguided ambush election rule will pull our country in the opposite direction. Congress cannot stand by and let that happen. The committee has been leading the fight against the president’s radical labor board, and rest assured, we will continue to do so.
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Letters of support are pouring in for the bipartisan agreement to reform multiemployer pensions. Released by House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), the proposal includes reforms to provide trustees with new tools to save troubled plans, while protecting taxpayers. See what business and union leaders are saying in support of this bipartisan agreement:
"The bi-partisan proposal developed by the Education and Workforce Committee will modify the expiring Pension Protection Act (PPA) and give plan trustees the tools they need to strengthen their plans. This proposal helps troubled plans avoid insolvency, puts the plans recovering from the economic downturn on firmer ground, and helps those plans – and retirees – that are most in trouble avoid losing everything." – North America’s Building Trades Unions
"I urge you to support the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 as it follows the “Solutions Not Bailouts” proposal that was a private sector, joint labor-management proposal to solve the multiemployer pension system failures and avoid a federal bailout. The legislation will provide modifications to the PPA that will strengthen plans’ funding positions and ensure long-term retirement security." – Associated General Contractors of America
"The Kline-Miller legislation protects pensions, retirees, and taxpayers. It is the only reform that accomplishes all of these important objectives." – The Association of Food and Dairy Retailers, Wholesalers and Manufacturers, Aramark, Bimbo Bakeries, ConAgra Foods, Dairy Farmers of America, Dean Foods, Kellog’s, Kroger
'Workers and their employers have used and exhausted all the tools at their disposal to strengthen their plans on their own. Some have even increased worker and employer contributions and accepted reduced benefits to preserve these pensions … We are simply asking Congress to give multiemployer pension plans the tools they need to modernize, continue to provide benefits, and in some cases, avoid insolvency." – United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
"This bipartisan agreement follows three years of hard work, hearings, events and negotiations between employers and unions, and members of Congress. It is absolutely essential legislation to allow the private sector to resolve the multiemployer pension crisis without government involvement." – The Kroger Co.
"While imperfect, SEIU supports this legislation because it will help preserve and protect the multiemployer defined benefit pension system for our members and all of the system’s participants for years to come. Failure to pass this legislation now will jeopardize the future of this system, and will increase the eventual cost for our members, our employers, and potentially for taxpayers." – Service Employees International Union
"If Congress enacts the bipartisan Kline-Miller legislation, it will allow critically underfunded multiemployer pension plans to engage in self-help to save themselves from insolvency, at no cost to taxpayers. It will protect plan participants from larger benefit cuts in the future; avert large contribution increases that will result in employer bankruptcies; prevent the loss of thousands of jobs; and greatly minimize inevitable calls for a PBGC bailout." – ArcBest Corporation
"Our seniors are looking to Congress for common sense, bipartisan pension reform that protects as many multiemployer plans as possible. The Kline-Miller compromise, while not perfect, achieves that goal. The UFCW strongly urges you to include these reforms in the year-end spending bill without further delay." – United Food and Commercial Workers International Union"It is absolutely critical that we move forward with legislation to address the challenges facing these plans so that we can continue to provide the hardworking men and women who make America strong with benefits that allow them to retire with dignity." – United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
"Pension trustees have run out of options. They have used and exhausted the policy tools at their disposal. Many have increased worker and employer contributions. A large number have reduced pension accrual rates, in addition to other painful policy steps. The International Union of Operating Engineers strongly believes that Congress must take these essential steps to strengthen the multiemployer pension system." - International Union of Operating Engineers
"The bipartisan proposal developed by the Education and the Workforce Committee will modify the expiring Pension Protection Act (PPA) and give plan trustees the tools they need to strengthen their plans." – International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
"The National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) strongly supports the bipartisan agreement between Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee to reform the multiemployer pension system and implement key provisions of the Solutions Not Bailouts proposal." – National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans.
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After a bipartisan agreement to reform the multiemployer pension plan system and protect millions of workers from financial catastrophe was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today, Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senior Democratic Member George Miller (D-CA) issued the following joint statement:
Tonight a bipartisan Congress put workers and businesses one step closer toward having the tools they need to come together and save pension plans that are facing imminent bankruptcy. Our bipartisan agreement should become the law of the land to help prevent the collapse of failing plans and better protect workers’ retirement security. It’s time to trust our nation’s workers, employers, and union leaders to do the right thing by enacting this important bipartisan agreement.
Learn more about the multiemployer pension plan reform here.
Read letters of support from labor and business leaders here.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.
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"I am delighted to have the privilege of serving on the Education and the Workforce Committee with such a dedicated and principled group of men and women,” said Chairman Kline. “The American people expect Congress to advance commonsense reforms that will help strengthen our nation’s classrooms and workplaces. The new and returning Republican members of the committee will all play pivotal roles in that effort, and I look forward to working with them next Congress.”
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Republican Committee Members for the 114th Congress:
• Rep. John Kline (MN-2)*
• Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2)*
• Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5)*
• Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50)*
• Rep. Phil Roe (TN-1)*
• Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-5)*
• Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7)*
• Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-5)*
• Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY-2)*
• Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4)*
• Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11)*
• Rep. Joe Heck (NV-3)*
• Rep. Luke Messer (IN-6)*
• Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-1)*
• Rep. Dave Brat (VA-7)
• Rep. – elect Buddy Carter (GA-1)
• Rep. – elect Mike Bishop (MI-8)
• Rep. – elect Glenn Grothman (WI-6)
• Rep. – elect Steve Russell (OK-5)
• Rep. – elect Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
• Rep. – elect Elise Stefanik (NY-21)
• Rep. – elect Rick Allen (GA-12)
NOTE: Additional membership and organizational changes may be announced at a later time.
* Indicates prior service on the committee.
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Worries about running afoul of the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — have forced officials in Ascension Parish to turn the hunt for substitute teachers to a staffing agency to track hours and avoid federal penalties ... "This is really, really a major concern,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.
The uproar in education circles, as well as other industries nationwide, stems from a part of the law that requires employers to offer health insurance coverage to part-time workers who are employed 30 hours or more per week, or face federal fines of up to $2,000 per person. Superintendents said such coverage is a huge expense for school districts still reeling from five years of a near freeze in state aid for public schools. “Given the cost of benefits, that would be an unbelievable drain on school systems,” [superintendent, Ascension Parish school system] Pujol said. – The Advocate, ObamaCare Forces Louisiana Public Schools to Scramble for Substitute Teachers
In New Jersey, school districts are even being forced to outsource their substitute teaching:
A school district in New Jersey is planning to outsource substitute teachers in an effort to counter rising costs of the Affordable Care Act. Roanoke City Public Schools in January will start using the New Jersey-based company Source4Teachers to supply it with substitute teachers, substitute aides and substitute clerical workers … Officials said they began research into the outsourcing option due to the Obamacare mandate that, as of Jan. 1, employees working an average of 30 hours or more a week must be offered health insurance. – Newsmax, Obamacare Costs Push NJ School System to Outsource Sub Teachers
As has been said time and again, the nation’s students and teachers deserve better. That’s why the House passed with bipartisan support the Save American Workers Act (H.R. 2575), legislation to restore the 40-hour work week. Another proposal would simply exempt schools from the employer mandate, providing relief from one of the law’s most onerous mandates.
As the committee continues to fight for commonsense health care solutions and investigate the challenges facing schools as a result of the president’s fatally-flawed law, please share #YourStory by visiting www.edworkforce.house.gov/YourStory or e-mailing us at TellYourStory@mail.house.gov.
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House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after President Obama announced his plans to unilaterally change federal immigration laws:
The president's brazen disregard for the rule of law and the constitutional limits of his office continues to divide our nation. To quote the president, this is not how our democracy functions. He has once again put his own political interests before the best interests of the country. The American people made it clear that they want us to end the gridlock and work together. However, this decision will make it even harder to address the challenges facing our classrooms and workplaces. Unless the president changes course, we will lose an opportunity to advance reforms that would make a difference in the lives of students and working families. The president is determined to let that opportunity slip away.
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I am humbled by the opportunity to continue leading this great committee. Significant challenges face our classrooms and workplaces, challenges that have persisted for far too long. Fixing a broken K-12 education system, promoting certainty and flexibility in our nation’s workplaces, and strengthening higher education are all national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee’s agenda. The American people want us to end the gridlock and get to work. If the president is willing to engage and the Senate is willing to act, we can advance reforms that will make a difference in the lives of students and working families. I am eager to help lead that effort and look forward to the work that lies ahead.
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The multiemployer pension system is a ticking time bomb that will inflict a lot of pain on workers, employers, taxpayers, and retirees if Congress fails to act. Today’s report is a sober reminder that time is running out and should serve as a wakeup call for those few naysayers who believe this is too hard to get done. For months we have tried to reach consensus on a package of reforms that would give trustees new tools to avoid insolvency and protect retirees. The time to enact responsible reforms is now, before the bomb goes off.
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