Sen. Brown to push for pension relief in Dayton

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, held a roundtabled discussion on NAFTA in Dayton at the United Autoworkers Local 696 union hall earlier this month. LYNN HULSEY/STAFF
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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, held a roundtabled discussion on NAFTA in Dayton at the United Autoworkers Local 696 union hall earlier this month. LYNN HULSEY/STAFF

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will be in Dayton Friday to push for legislation he contends will protect the strained pensions of several unions.

Brown will visit the Dayton offices of Teamsters Local 957 to talk about the shortfalls that threaten the pensions of 60,000 Ohioans and 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide.

Earlier this month, Brown announced the creation of a 12-member bipartisan, House and Senate joint select committee set up to confront the issue.

The Ohio Democrat and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Youngstown, in December introduced the Butch Lewis Act, named for a retired Ohio trucker and Teamster from West Chester Twp. in Butler County, who died in late 2015.

The legislation would let the federal government issue bonds to help make up the gap between pension assets and obligations.

Some have criticized what they say is the likely cost of such an effort. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has said  new federal relief for pensions could cost $100 billion or more.

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Brown will be joined in Dayton by Lewis’ wife, Rita, as well as local retirees and workers, according to his office.

Brown’s office says several Ohio pension plans, including the Ohio Southwest Carpenters Pension Plan, the Central States Teamsters Pension Plan, the United Mine Workers Pension Plan and others are “on the brink of failure.”

“If nothing is done to the plans, they will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work,” Brown’s office said in an announcement on the senator’s planned visit.

Brown’s new joint select committee has instructions to report a bill by the last week of November.

If at least four members from each party agree on a compromise, the solution the committee produces will be guaranteed an expedited vote on both the House and Senate floors free of amendments, the senator’s office said.

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The committee will be required to hold at least five public meetings, including at least one field hearing outside of D.C.