Legislative Update: May 2019

Legislative Update: May 2019

Social Security Expansion Bill Introduced With Widespread Support In House

By Jessie Gibbons, Legislative Director

New legislation from Congressman John Larson (CT-1) – Chairman of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee – would boost Social Security benefits, reduce taxes for beneficiaries, and strengthen the financing of the program for generations to come.  The Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860) was introduced on January 30th with the support of more than 200 cosponsors – more than any other Social Security reform bill to date – and The Senior Citizens League believes it has a real chance of advancing through the House of Representatives by the end of this year.

The Social Security 2100 Act would improve the Social Security program in four key ways if adopted.  It would:

  • Make the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) more adequate.  Under current law, annual COLAs are based on the spending patterns of young, urban workers.  This bill would better protect against the inflation that beneficiaries experience by basing the COLA on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E).  On average, benefits would be 0.25 percentage point higher using this measure of inflation, which means your benefits would grow more quickly over time.
  • Boost Social Security benefits by around 2 percent.  According to our research, Social Security benefits have lost 34 percent of their buying power since 2000, due in large part to inadequate COLAs and rising Medicare premiums.  An across-the-board benefit boost of around $35 per month is a modest change that most beneficiaries believe is fair and necessary.
  • Cut taxes for 12 million beneficiaries.  This year, around 12 million beneficiaries with incomes of just twice the poverty line paid taxes on their Social Security benefits.  This bill would raise the income thresholds for the taxation of benefits – from $25,000 for individuals or $32,000 for married couples to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for married couples – so that those with modest incomes no longer see their benefits taxed each year.
  • Reduce senior poverty by creating a new minimum benefit.  Beneficiaries who worked long careers of thirty years or more in jobs with very low wages should not be retiring into poverty.  The Social Security 2100 Act would ensure that these individuals receive a minimum Social Security benefit set at 125 percent of the poverty line.

The Social Security 2100 Act would more than cover the cost of these four benefit improvements with two changes to the payroll tax.  First, it would apply the tax to income over $400,000 so that the wealthiest workers contribute to the program more fairly.  Under current law, income over $132,900 is not subjected to the payroll tax so millionaires and other high earners stop contributing to the Social Security program after reaching $132,900. The bill would also gradually increase the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 7.4 percent.  These two changes would ensure that the Social Security program remains solvent through the year 2100 and beyond.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the Social Security 2100 Act since it would strengthen benefits while improving the solvency of the trust funds for decades to come.  For years, Congress has been debating benefit cuts like “chaining” the COLA or increasing the age of eligibility.  Finally, thanks to the voices of grassroots advocates and supporters like you, lawmakers are making progress towards a solution that would strengthen and improve the Social Security program.

In the months ahead, we look forward to working with Congressman Larson and the bill’s cosponsors to build additional support. For updates on the progress of the Social Security 2100 Act, as it makes its way through Congress, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter or visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.  You can also tell us how you think the Social Security program should be reformed by participating in our new 2019 Social Security Survey.