NYC Comptroller Decries Senate Vote to Roll Back Pension Rule

Vote reversed Labor Department rule allowing cities to create savings plans.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer had some harsh words for US. Senate Republicans who voted to reverse a Department of Labor (DOL) rule that allowed cities and counties to organize retirement savings accounts for workers who have no access to retirement plans.

“Republicans in the Senate just voted to make it harder for Americans to save for retirement,” said Stringer in a statement. “This vote was an active, willful attempt to undermine the economic security of Americans.”

By a vote of 50-49, the Senate voted to overturn the US DOL’s rule “Savings Arrangements Established by State Political Subdivisions for Non-Governmental Employees.” The rule allowed cities to expand access to retirement savings plans to private-sector workers.

In August, the DOL adopted a rule under which states could design and operate payroll deduction individual retirement account (IRA) savings plans, including automatic enrollment, for private-sector employees without establishing a pension plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

According to The New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, 1.5 million, or 58%, of all full- and part-time private sector workers in New York City between the ages of 25 and 64 are uncovered and/or ineligible for a pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan.

“Every New Yorker and every American should be able to save for a lifetime,” said Stringer. “But instead of lifting them up, Republicans in the Senate have sold out hardworking families who want to have secure retirements.”

The vote came under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which established fast-track procedures that allows Congress to disapprove regulatory rules issued by federal agencies. To qualify for expedited consideration, a disapproval resolution must be submitted within 60 days after Congress receives the rule.

The current Congressional Review Act window applies to any significant Obama administration rule that was either finalized or made effective after June 13, 2016. Because the DOL’s city and county plan rule was finalized in December 2016, and became effective in January 2017, both rules fall within the current Congressional Review Act window.

The White House is expected to approve the legislation, and has already expressed its support for it. It said in a statement in March that the Labor Department rules had allowed “a new type of state-based retirement plan that would lack important federal protections.”

By Michael Katz