Republican Budget Targets Railroad Retirement Benefits

On March 29, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on a party line vote adopted the so-called Ryan Budget over the opposition of House Democrats.

One of the Budget’s provisions states that railroad retirement benefits “are more generous than Social Security in many ways.” The Budget goes on to call for legislation to conform railroad retirement Tier 1 benefits “so that its benefits would equal those of Social Security, with an estimated savings to taxpayers of $2 billion over 10 years.”

There are two things to know about this budget.

First, it has no chance of being adopted as legislation this year. Why? Because the Democratic Senate will not even take it up for consideration, and President Obama wouldn’t sign it even if Congress passed it.

Second, if the Republicans succeed in November in winning the White House and Senate, railroad retirement, as we know it, may not survive.

The Ryan Budget is enthusiastically supported by Mitt Romney and almost all of the current Congressional Republicans. Even though the above quoted Budget language reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about how railroad retirement is funded, there is no doubt as to its intent: to eliminate occupational disability and 60/30 retirement, as those are the two chief benefits that exceed Social Security benefits.

As railroad workers and retirees, we understand that those benefits are completely funded by the taxes we and railroad employers pay. But that doesn’t matter to the Republican majorities who voted for this. All they see is a chance to target yet another group of workers in the name of budget austerity. Why let facts stand in the way?

From the moment the budget hit the floor, TCU, IAM and the other rail unions mobilized to defeat it. The railroads have also stood up in opposition. Every House Democrat voted against it. But all but 10 Republicans voted for it.

As a budget resolution, it carries no statutory weight unless adopted by the Senate and signed by President Obama, neither of which will happen. In fact, legislation would first have to be drafted and then passed by the House to specifically implement the recommended changes, and even that appears extremely unlikely to occur during this session of Congress.

But make no mistake about it. If the Republicans win the White House and Senate, they have now gone on record that one of their priorities will be to dismantle railroad retirement and reduce its benefits to those of social security. If you are a railroad worker or retiree and care about your retirement security, this election will be the most important ever.
Register to vote now, and on election day vote as if your retirement security depended on it. Because it will!

Click here for the statement from the RRB.

Click here to read a related statement from the Association of American Railroad.