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Romney enlists Ryan to wage war on railroad workers

CLEVELAND, August 14 — Less than three weeks away from formally accepting his party’s nomination for the Presidency of the United States, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin Representative and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the architect of a plan to gut the pension rights of railroad workers, as his running mate.

“This pairing represents a nightmare scenario for BLET members and all railroad workers in America,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “With Romney’s campaign trail promises to slash Amtrak funding and Ryan’s infamous budget plan that would destroy Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits, there could be many dark days ahead from railroaders if this pair is elected in November.”

Ryan is the author and primary sponsor of the so-called Ryan Budget plan, which was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year. The peril to the pension rights of railroad workers is laid out on page 101 of House Report No. 112-421 that accompanied the measure, under the heading of Conform Railroad Retirement Tier 1 Benefits to Social Security Benefits, which states as follows:

    “Tier 1 benefits for railroad retirees are supposed to mimic Social Security benefits, but they are more generous than Social Security in many ways. This option would conform Tier 1 so that its benefits would equal those of Social Security, with an estimated savings to taxpayers of $2 billion over 10 years.”


That proposal would have the following disastrous effects for railroad workers, their spouses and dependents:

    • it would eliminate the “60/30” provision that allows railroad employees to retire with full benefits at 60 years of age with 30 years of service;

    • it would eliminate the Railroad Retirement Occupational disability program for rail workers who can no longer perform their railroad duties due to disability;

    • it would increase the minimum retirement age for railroad employees to 62 years of age with a reduction in benefits;

    • it would increase the minimum age for spousal annuities with a reduction in benefits; and

    • it would increase the annual out-of-pocket medical costs paid by railroad retirees and cause the costs of railroad retiree health insurance under GA-46000 to soar.


The claim that repealing pension rights for railroad workers would save the U.S. taxpayers even a single dime, much less “$2 billion over 10 years” is completely false. All Railroad Retirement benefits — whether Tier 1 Social Security equivalent benefits or the Tier 2 benefits that represent the railroad industry’s pension plan — are fully funded through taxes paid by railroad workers and their employers.

But soon-to-be GOP Vice Presidential candidate Ryan won’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. In a May 14 letter to a California constituent, Ryan not only admitted that his budget plan would strip railroad workers of their unique Railroad Retirement benefits, he also made the assertion that “Tier 1 Retirement Benefits are... invested in special non-marketable bonds, just like with Social Security.” This claim, too, is demonstrably false.

Section 107(c) of the Railroad Retirement and Survivors’ Improvement Act of 2001 specifically provides for all Tier 1 funds in the Social Security Equivalent Benefit Account to be transferred to the Railroad Retirement Investment Trust (RRIT), except for those “needed to pay current benefits and administrative expenses.” And Section 105 of the Act empowers the RRIT Trustees to determine how the funds will be invested; the majority of those investments are in other than non-marketable bonds, which yield a significantly higher rate of return than investments made by the Social Security system.

The Ryan Budget also targets the retiree medical benefits of railroad workers and all Americans. It proposes to eliminate Medicare as we know it and increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67 with drastically reduced coverage. Ryan also wants to replace Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with a voucher system that is not guaranteed to cover the cost of equivalent care currently provided under Medicare; this change would affect anyone born in 1958 or later.

On March 20, while stumping in Chicago, Romney said “I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. ...I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.” More recently, he vowed that, if he were President he would have signed the Ryan Budget if it had crossed his desk.

“Saturday’s announcement by the presumptive GOP nominee underscores for BLET members and all railroad workers and their families what is at stake in this fall’s national elections,” President Pierce said. “We must remember in November which candidates support our interests, and which ones will do us harm.”


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The following related resources concerning this issue can be viewed/downloaded/printed from the BLET website:

• Romney vows in Iowa to cut Amtrak funding as President (November 8, 2011):
thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/railroads/192455-romney-says-in-iowa-he-would-cut-amtrak-as-president

• Romney Campaign Doubles Down: He ‘Would Have Signed’ The Ryan Budget (August 12, 2012):
thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/08/12/678941/romney-embraced-ryan-budget

• Five Times Mitt Romney Has Embraced The Ryan Budget (August 11, 2012):
thinkprogress.org/election/2012/08/11/677861/romney-ryan-buget

• Link to H. Con. Res. 121 (70 pages):
www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/H.Con.Res. 112 eh.pdf

• Link to Resolution, House Report (H.Rep.) No. 112–421 (230 pages; offending language on Page 101):
www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/H.Rep. 112-421.pdf

• Link to House voting record on H. Con. Res. 112:
clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll151.xml

• Link to Association of American Railroads letter to Rep. Paul Ryan regarding House Report 112-421:
www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/AAR_Letter_Ryan_Budget.pdf

• Paul Ryan’s May 14, 2012, letter to California constituent:
www.ble-t.org/pr/pdf/Letter_to_California_Constituent.pdf

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
bentley@ble-t.org

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