Letter: Senate bill would have serious economic impact

To the Editor:

The Connecticut General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), An Act Establishing A Retirement Plan for Low-Income Private Sector Workers. We read every day about significant numbers of Connecticut families struggling to pay for housing, or health care, or even to put food on the table. Affording retirement is likewise a challenge for many Connecticut families.

A bill addressing these financial struggles would be welcomed, but SB 54 does not do so — rather, the bill mandates the automatic enrollment into a state retirement plan of all adult, non-union Connecticut private sector employees who are not eligible for a retirement plan at work. SB 54 thus seeks to establish a state-sponsored or state-run retirement plan that would impact all Connecticut businesses.

A state-sponsored retirement plan is unnecessary. Assertions by proponents that such a plan is needed due to lack of access to affordable savings vehicles are false and ignore the economic realities that impact whether individuals choose (or are able) to contribute to retirement plans, or whether employers choose to offer such a plan.

Employees are often faced with simply making ends meet. This causes retirement contributions to be viewed as a long-term luxury and far from a priority; in fact, individuals often do not save as much as they should for retirement even when they have the resources to do so, and the presence of a state-sponsored retirement plan will not change that dynamic.

There is no evidence that the state has studied this dynamic, or studied the legal implications of a state-sponsored retirement plan relative to the requirements and restrictions of Federal law. It is also very clear that the state has not studied or considered the economic effects this bill would have on Connecticut jobs for those of us in the retirement industry.

Moreover, I, and thousands of other Connecticut taxpayers, work in the retirement services industry. If this bill passes, the state effectively supplants our industry’s client relationships and puts our jobs at risk. I have devoted my career to expanding retirement coverage and to helping people with their long-term financial goals. I have paid my taxes to and have raised my children in this state, only to now have the state propose to threaten my employer’s client relationships and thus threaten my job. Isn't the state supposed to be encouraging job creation?

This bill is currently being discussed in the State Senate. My hope is that our elected officials can see past politics to address the very real job security concerns of taxpaying constituents.

In these challenging times, the General Assembly should be spending its time, and our money, to promote the economic security of Connecticut families without jeopardizing the economic security of others.

Aaron Friedman