Senators: Don't put public employees on Social Security

Led by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a bipartisan group of senators is asking the Clinton administration not to consider a proposal to bring more people into the Social Security system, the Associated Press has reported.

"Proposals to bring state and local employees into Social Security place an undue burden on a small number of states," said a letter released Monday by Voinovich's office.

The letter added, "Mr. President, millions of our constituents, who will receive higher retirement benefits from their current public pensions than they would under Social Security, are appealing to their elected representatives in Washington."

The letter, whose signers include Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, was sent to the White House over the weekend, just as new questions were being raised over the likelihood of comprehensive Social Security reform this year.

The letter was written with the expectation that there would be legislation, and that it would follow the recommendations of the President's Advisory Council on Social Security. Putting the now-excluded public employees into the system was recommended in all three reform plans offered by that council.

An estimated 5 million local and state government employees have their own retirement plans, and currently are exempted from the Social Security payroll tax. Making those workers pay into the system would raise as much as $11.3 billion in five years, according to the CBO. That is roughly enough to buy two more years of solvency for Social Security; opponents of the proposal say such a relatively meager benefit is not worth disrupting the other retirement systems.

According to the office of the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, California has the most exempt workers, 1.2 million, with Ohio second with 800,000 and Texas third with 700,000.

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