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U.S. Sen. Mark Begich took to the Senate floor yesterday as part of his ongoing efforts to make sure the government makes good on its promise to workers, seniors and the disabled through his â€œProtecting and Preserving Social Security Act.â€
The bill, S. 3651, extends the solvency of Social Security by changing the way cost-of-living increases are calculated and by eliminating the income cap that currently limits what higher-income Americans contribute in a given year.
Begich emphasized that with no changes, Social Security will be solvent until 2033. That is why, he said in his speech, the program should not be considered for cuts during deficit-reduction talks and why no one should be talking about increasing the retirement age.
“This bill isn’t just about providing our seniors the security they need and deserve, it’s about common-sense fiscal planning,” Begich said. “By creating a more fair and balanced system, we can increase benefits to our seniors, extend the solvency of the program, and give so many Alaskans peace of mind for their future.”
Under Begich’s bill, cost of living increases will be based on the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index-Elderly, or CPI-E. The “elderly” index better reflects how seniors and the disabled spend their money – overwhelmingly on medical care, prescription drugs, housing and energy costs.
The extension of the program’s solvency comes by lifting the cap on contributions. Current law sets a cap based on income, which will be $113,700 next year. If an individual’s wages hit that total for the year, they no longer pay into the program. Begich’s bill lifts the cap and asks higher-income earners to pay like all other Americans and, in the process, shores up Social Security for approximately 75 years.
The bill is similar to one introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch in the House of Representatives, and has the backing of more than 300 national and state organizations representing about 50 million Americans.
An excerpt of Begich’s speech: