La. congressional, state delegations continue to push for Social Security reform

Louisiana’s congressional and state legislature delegations continue to push for Social Security reform.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 8:47 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KALB) - Louisiana’s congressional and state legislature delegations continue to push for Social Security reform, focused on two programs directly impacting public service employees.

H.R. 82 by Rep. Garret Graves (R-6th Congressional District) looks to eliminate the penalty for workers with government pensions and their spouses as it applies to Social Security benefits. Those workers include more than 2 million retired government workers like law enforcement, teachers and state workers. The current provisions, known as the Windfall Elimination Penalty (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), were implemented in the 1980s, preventing government workers from collecting full Social Security benefits.

GPO reduces the spousal or survivor benefits of a spouse or survivor who also earns a pension by two-thirds. Meanwhile, WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of a person who also receives a pension, like a teacher who has worked a summer job.

Both provisions mainly impact state and local government employees, like teachers, firefighters and police officers, or non-US employees.

“These are people that have paid into Social Security, people that have paid for their retirement benefits, that for the last 40+ years, have actually had their benefits taken,” said Graves at a Wednesday press conference.

Proponents of the provisions say they prevent people from double-dipping into benefits, while opponents like Graves say they target the most overworked and underpaid employees.

“This is absolutely critical. We need to address this and solve this issue once and for all,” urged Graves.

Louisiana’s state legislature agrees, having unanimously urged Congress to repeal the federal provisions, most recently with a resolution drafted by State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Pineville) in the 2023 Regular Session.

“When it comes time for retirement, they shouldn’t be having to beg or take second or third jobs or go back to work as a people greeter at Walmart at age 70. It’s just wrong.”

State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Pineville)

Johnson joined Graves on Wednesday to advocate for lawmakers to join as co-sponsors on the bill.

”There is some misnomer that because you get a retirement as a public servant it’s not right that you should get social security also,” said Johnson. “And if that’s all these people ever did, then that might be a good argument. But if they as private citizens have put in the hours since they were 15 or 16 years old or whenever, then it doesn’t matter that they chose to be a teacher or a policeman or a fireman. They have paid the bill.”

While it does not have unanimous support in Congress and could have difficulty making headway in the Senate, it has gained enough bi-partisan support in the House to force a vote on the floor if it were not voluntarily called up.

“This bill has the third most co-sponsors of any legislation, strong bi-partisan support from the East Coast to the West Coast. And that’s a direct result of the tireless effort of all the people behind me,” said Graves, referencing a group of retired public service employees, like teachers and police officers.

Louisiana’s entire congressional delegation has pushed for similar legislation before, including in 2022. However, it was delayed for a vote by the House Ways and Means Committee, and it did not garner enough support to get the bill on the floor for a vote.

On Thursday, Congresswoman Julia Letlow (R-5th Congressional District) testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in support of H.R. 82. She shared testimony of how WEP and GPO have adversely affected individuals in her district.

“You all have the means and the wherewithal to fix this for my constituents and for countless others. And I know it doesn’t affect every state, but Americans are hurting,” said Letlow. “And that’s why I believe they send us to Congress to fix problems just like this.”

As of Thursday, 291 co-sponsors have joined Graves in the effort to repeal WEP/GPO, beyond the necessary votes needed to call for a floor vote.

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