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WASHINGTON-Congressmen Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) are once again working to improve America’s pension systems. Last year, the two sponsored a bill that was folded into the president’s tax plan that increased retirement plan contributions and provided additional allowable contributions for baby boomers nearing retirement. The two main things the new Portman-Cardin collaboration will do is accelerate the increased savings schedule from the previous pension reforms and extend the mandatory withdrawal age for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) from 70.5 years of age to 75 by 2007, starting out with an increase to age 73 in 2003 and 2004 and another increase in 2005 and 2006 to age 74. The age increase allows retirees who would have to begin withdrawing funds in such a weak economy to leave them in a few more years in hopes of regaining some of their investments. The collaborators’ most recent bill, H.R. 5553 Protecting America’s Savings Act was replaced with H.R. 5558, the Retirement Savings and Security Act of 2002 as introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas. Mark up of the bill began last Monday evening and wrapped up last Tuesday with a 24-10 vote, according to CUNA Legislative Affairs Manager Leon Peace. He added that the vote was mainly along party lines and that several members were not present. The credit union lobby has supported the pension reforms. While the bill is getting a late start, Peace, who specializes in tax legislation, said he expects the bill to travel fairly quickly. “Chairman Bill Thomas of the Ways and Means Committee is committed to moving legislation that the president supports and I think that this will get an increased presence,” Peace remarked. Though many lawmakers are getting antsy to return to their districts for campaigning, the lobbyist said that politics should not get in the way of this bill. “As we get closer and closer to the elections again politics is one of the key driving elements of what moves, but the exception is always in the tax committees where policy sometimes outweighs politics,” he said. Peace added that how the bill fairs in the Senate is anyone’s guess. NAFCU Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bill Donovan wrote the sponsoring lawmakers expressing their support of the pension reform effort. “We believe that these provisions, contained in the “Protecting America’s Savings Act of 2002″ (H.R. 5553) will benefit hundreds of thousands of Americans in their efforts to save for retirement and prudently manage their retirement savings,” he wrote. “Raising the mandatory withdrawal age from 70.5 to 75 will benefit many of those who have spent years if not an entire lifetime saving for retirement, only to turn 70.5 in a down market and be forced to withdraw their funds before the market rebounds. “As you know, the private savings rate in the United States is at its lowest level in more than 40 years. As a result of deeply ingrained spending habits, large numbers of Americans have inadequate savings. Credit unions know that saving is a matter of choice and that the most important factor in long-term wealth accumulation is the act of saving itself.” Peace added, “Should these changes become law.it would certainly strengthen pensions and retirement savings.” [email protected]

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