WASHINGTON (14 March 2001) IEEE-USA strongly endorses the Comprehensive Retirement Security and Pension Reform Act introduced in the House of Representatives today by Congressmen Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
"Increases in retirement savings-plan contribution limits and improvements in pension portability like the ones in this bill are urgently needed," said Dr. Timothy Grayson, who chairs IEEE-USAs Engineering Employment Benefits Committee. "This will enable increasingly mobile American workers, including engineers and scientists, to save more for retirement and to take their earned benefits with them when they change jobs in todays fast-moving economy."
The Portman-Cardin bill, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the last Congress, passed the House twice last year (401 to 25 on July 19th and 401 to 20 on September 19th). The pension reform provisions were also included in an omnibus House-Senate tax relief package that was debated, but not enacted, in the closing days of the 106th Congress. The new bill will:
Increase the current $2,000 contribution limit (established in 1981) for deductible and non-deductible IRAs to $5,000 in $1,000 annual increments.
Increase 401(k), 403(b), section 457 and salary-reduction Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) contribution limits from $10,500 to $15,000 and SIMPLE contribution limits from $6,000 to $10,000.
Allow older workers to make "catch-up" contributions of up to $5,000 a year to 401(k)-type plans and up to $1,500 to IRAs.
Reduce vesting requirements for employer matching contributions to defined contribution plans from 5 to 3 years and improve pension portability by facilitating transfers of earned benefits among and between defined-contribution plans and IRAs.
IEEE-USAs Grayson cited U.S. Department of Labor research findings that two-thirds of American workers who participate in employer-sponsored plans can lose as much as 50 percent of their benefits under current patterns of job mobility and pension coverage. The Portman-Cardin proposal will help fix that problem by making it easier to transfer earned benefits from one employers plan to another when workers change jobs, and from one employment sector to another if they change careers.
"Although Im looking forward to a productive career with my current employer, statistics indicate that Im likely to change jobs three or four more times before I retire," Grayson said. "Unless I can transfer my earned benefits to future employers plans or roll them over into an IRA, I stand to lose a substantial part of my retirement savings."
Grayson joined other national engineering society representatives in praising Congressmen Portman and Cardin (and the 228 other Republican, Democratic and Independent co-sponsors) for crafting such a comprehensive pension reform proposal. In addition to raising contribution limits and improving pension portability, the Portman-Cardin bill will help to expand pension coverage by simplifying complex minimum distribution, non-discrimination and top-heavy rules.
"These burdensome regulatory requirements currently discourage many employers especially small and mid-sized businesses from offering retirement savings programs for their employees," Grayson said.
found at: <http://web.mit.edu/invent>.
CED Releases Report on Immigration Reform,
IEEE-USA Agrees with Most of the Findings
WASHINGTON (26 March 2001) The Committee for Economic Development, a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing Fortune 500 business leaders and university presidents, issued a report, Reforming Immigration: Helping Meet Americas Need for a Skilled Workforce, at the National Press Club on March 21. The report concludes that the United States employment-based admissions programs, both permanent and temporary, are in desperate need of repair. Action is needed now if the U.S. it to meet continuing needs for skilled labor at a time when its domestic workforce is rapidly aging.
"If U.S. workers are unable to meet the increasing demand for high-tech positions, then we favor immigration policies that will help U.S. companies remain competitive in the global marketplace," said IEEE-USA Past President (1999) Paul Kostek, who served as a non-trusteed member of CEDs Immigration Subcommittee. "If we must bring in skilled foreign workers, we believe they should come to the U.S. as permanent residents rather than as guest workers under H-1B and other temporary admissions programs.
"In short, IEEE-USA supports green cards, not guest workers."
While IEEE-USA agrees that our nations immigration system must be reformed, it continues to insist that immigration should be viewed as a supplement to not a substitute for concerted public and private effort to improve our nations technological capability. The latter can be accomplished through more effective education, training and life-long learning, and better management and utilization of American workers, including engineers and scientists.
"Although a more market-sensitive immigration system will contribute to a strong American economy," said Shelly Jones, co-chair of CEDs Immigration Subcommittee, "it cannot replace effective basic education and training as the main source of a skilled workforce."
IEEE-USA supports the CEDs recommendation to rationalize permanent, employment-based admissions by replacing time-consuming and ineffective labor certifications with an expedited attestation requirement, coupled with random audits to ensure compliance and strengthen accountability.
The CED report found that the up to 10-year wait for full approval of a permanent employee visa has resulted in a backlog of over 1 million "green card" applicants, while nearly half the annual allotment of these visas go unused. This has distorted the H-1B temporary visa system and made it a backdoor for foreign nationals seeking permanent admission. The CED recommends reducing the term of H-1B visas from six years to three and allowing the number of H-1B visas to respond flexibly to market forces.
"CED is to be congratulated for issuing such a comprehensive and objective analysis of a very controversial public-policy issue, and for formulating practical recommendations for changes in employment-based admissions programs," IEEE-USA President Ned Sauthoff said. "Given the credibility and objectivity of the CED, IEEE-USA strongly recommends that the report be used as a basis for bipartisan Congressional efforts involving business, education, government, labor and professional organizations to legislate needed reforms in Americas employment-based immigration system."
For a full copy of the CED report, visit www.ced.org.