May 11, 2017

Warner & Kaine Introduce Miners Pension Protection Act

~ Legislation would secure pensions and fulfill promise to retired coal miners ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced the Miners Pension Protection Act, legislation to secure our nation’s retired miners pensions by shoring up the 1974 Pension Plan which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis.

The 1974 Pension Plan was well-managed and funded prior to the 2008 financial crisis, which hit at a time when this Plan had its highest payment obligations. This – coupled with the fact that 60% of the beneficiaries are “orphan” retirees whose employers are no longer in the coal business, and the fact that there are only 10,000 active workers for 120,000 retirees – has placed the Plan on the road to insolvency. If the Plan becomes insolvent, these beneficiaries face benefit cuts and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will assume billions of dollars in liabilities.

“Virginia’s retired miners have dedicated their lives to power this nation and earned their pensions through a lifetime of hard and dangerous work. But due to financial instability and severe underfunding of the 1974 Pension Plan, these pensions are now in jeopardy,” said Sen. Warner. “Congress made a promise to coal miners in 1946. Today, we cannot forsake them or their families. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that tens of thousands of retired coal miners get to keep their pensions.”

“The federal government made a commitment to our miners that their hard-earned pensions would be protected,” Sen. Kaine said. “I’m proud to introduce this bill that would uphold this obligation by making reforms to fully fund the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan. Virginia’s miners deserve to know that their pensions will be protected so they can plan ahead and retire with peace of mind.”

The Miners Pension Protection Act will amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land Fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency.  

On May 4, 2017, the Senate passed a portion of the original Miners Protection Act of 2016 (S. 175), securing a permanent health care fix for our retired miners who were orphaned by recent coal bankruptcies. The passage of this legislation ensured that 22,600 of our nation’s miners did not lose the healthcare benefits that they earned over a lifetime of hard work and dedication to our great nation. The passage of that bill honored the promise of lifetime health care made by the U.S. Government and coal operators over seventy years ago. The Miners Protection Act of 2016 passed the Senate Finance Committee on a bipartisan vote of 18 to 8, fully offset. 

Besides Sens. Warner and Kaine, this legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Rob Portman (R-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Al Franken (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Burr (D-NC), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

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