(Salem, Ore.)— The Retirement in Reach coalition (a broad group of organizations representing approximately 900,000 Oregonians) today attacked “Wall Street financial interests” that are fighting HB 3436B. In a press conference held at the Oregon State Capitol, the coalition called on the Oregon Legislature to pass the bill to create a task force to study ways to increase retirement savings for working Oregonians.
“This is a classic battle between Main Street and Wall Street,” said Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press in Portland and Executive Team Member of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon, an organization representing more than 1,200 small businesses around the state. “We support creating low-cost, simple ways for our employees to save for retirement, and HB 3436B is the first step. Opposition to this bill has been dominated by Wall Street lobbyists and big businesses and we want to be clear: they don’t speak for us.”
HB 3436B, passed by the Oregon House of Representatives on Monday, creates the Oregon Retirement Savings Investment Task Force, which includes representatives from employers, the financial services industry, the public and the State Treasurer. The task force is charged with developing recommendations for an Oregon Secure Retirement Plan—which would be available to all working Oregonians on a voluntary basis—for enactment by the 2015 Legislature. The bill requires that the plan developed by the task force does not incur liability for the state and is portable and accessible to all Oregon workers.
Oregon’s senior population is projected to double in the next 20 years. Nearly half of Oregonians do not have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, and less than one-third of all small businesses currently offer retirement benefits.
“A recent AARP poll found that one in four working Oregonians aged 45-64 has less than $25,000 in savings,” said Joyce DeMonnin, Interim State Director of AARP Oregon. “Unless we act, the state budget will be saddled with a growing burden in the future as older adults are forced to rely more and more on public safety net programs.”
The coalition criticized the financial interests opposing HB 3436B for deliberately misrepresenting what the bill does.
“Insurance companies claim this bill is costly to the state and Oregon employers,” said Lili Hoag , Policy Director of Family Forward Oregon. “That’s simply not true. HB 3436B creates a task force to make recommendations to the Legislature to help working Oregon families save for retirement. When eight in ten of the poorest retirees in Oregon are women, we know there is a problem and we need some practical solutions. Individuals should have access to safe and secure ways to save for retirement. We are frustrated that Wall Street representatives have swooped into our state, claiming to speak on behalf of Oregon working families, who need a solution to retiring into poverty.”
Over the past year, a growing body of national research has demonstrated that American families are woefully underprepared for retirement. When all households are included, the median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households. Because of this dangerously low level of savings, the U.S. retirement savings deficit is between $6.8 and $14.0 trillion, depending on the household assets counted.
“Diverse coalitions just like ours are trying to find ways to address the retirement insecurity crisis in several other states, and Wall Street is fighting them every step of the way,” said Representative Jules Bailey, one of the chief co-sponsors of HB 3436B. “We have the opportunity to develop an Oregon solution that gives families a way to plan for their own futures without high fees and high hurdles—and it’s time to start that work. If Wall Street wins this fight, Oregonians lose.”
About the Retirement in Reach Coalition:
Retirement in Reach is a broad coalition of organizations (representing approximately 900,000 Oregonians) that believes every working Oregonian should have a secure, affordable way to plan and save for retirement.
Members include: AARP Oregon, Family Forward Oregon, Main Street Alliance of Oregon, Urban League of Portland, Elders in Action Commission, Oregon Nurses Association, AAUW of Oregon, AFSCME, Oregon Action, Oregon Education Association, SEIU Local 503, Neighborhood Partnerships, Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon State Firefighters Council, Community Action Partnerships of Oregon, United Seniors of Oregon, PCUN and Causa.