If President Donald Trump is serious about helping working families and fellow New Yorkers, a terrific opportunity awaits him.
When a resolution to repeal new U.S. Department of Labor rules gets to his desk, he shouldn’t sign it.
He can reject the resolution with plenty of fanfare, and cameras and tweets. And by doing so, he would give NYC residents, and those across the state, a chance to build their nest eggs for retirement.
Last year, the Department of Labor instituted two rules that exempted states and large cities from the federal law governing pensions, called the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Those exemptions gave the state and the city the ability to create their own retirement plans. They could automatically enroll employees of companies that do not offer pensions or 401(k) plans in individual retirement accounts. A worker could choose to opt out.
The House of Representatives voted last month to repeal exemptions for both states and cities. On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 to repeal the exemptions for cities, as Republican senators argued that retirement plans belong in the hands of the private sector. That resolution is now headed to Trump’s desk, while the Senate still has to vote on the exemption for states.
Both the Senate and Trump should keep this in mind: More than half of the nation’s private sector employees don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans; the statistics are similar for New York.
States and large cities should be allowed to fill that gap, especially because the more residents save, the less reliant they’d be on a government safety net later. At least 30 states have considered developing retirement plans. NYC proposed one last year, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed a commission to study the issue statewide; the panel is expected to make recommendations later this year.
If the federal rules are repealed, the city and state could still move forward, but with limitations and increased risk. The best path is to let the rules stand. City and state officials could then craft plans that would encourage New Yorkers to start saving for their futures.