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WASHINGTON-Retirement plans are not what they used to be. CUNA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs John McKechnie said that fact should help push through legislation recently introduced by Representatives Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to give Americans greater flexibility and portability of their retirement plans. Two years ago, Congress enacted retirement savings provisions sponsored by Portman and Cardin as part of the 2001 tax relief act. That legislation increased savings limits for Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k)-type plans. The new Portman-Cardin Pension Preservation and Savings Expansion Act (H.R. 1776) would accelerate those increases, as well as: *increase permissible Individual Retirement Account and 401(k) contributions; *beginning next year, allow workers under 50 to put up to $5,000 in an IRA and those over 50 to save $6,000; *permit workers under 50 to place up to $15,000 in their 401(k) and those 50+ to contribute $20,000 starting next year; *make the savings reforms from the 2001 tax relief bill permanent, instead of sunsetting after 2010; *provide better protections for retirement savings and greater access to planning services; *raise the minimum mandatory age for withdrawal to 75 from 70.5 set in 1962; *assist retirees with health care expenses; and *provide for additional savings tools. “This bipartisan approach will give people more options and more tools, not only so they can save more, but also so that their savings can be better protected,” Portman commented. “This bill is the next step in giving Americans the tools they need so they can plan for their future,” Cardin, a member of the Ways & Means Committee, said. Despite President George W. Bush’s strong push for his own tax savings plan, which includes even greater revenue cuts concerning retirement savings, and the lagging economy, McKechnie said H.R. 1776 should not be negatively impacted. CUNA’s chief legislative staffer pointed out that the retirement reforms in Portman-Cardin II-as it has been dubbed-are very important to consumers who are rarely offered traditional retirement packages through their companies anymore. It also fits into the president’s overall economic policies and enjoys healthy bipartisan support, he said. The Portman-Cardin legislation is being co-sponsored by Representatives Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), Elton Gallegly (R-Calif), Albert Wynn (D-Md.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). “We’re looking at this as what’s good for consumers and what’s good for our members,” McKechnie explained. Credit unions and their organizations have been following the legislation closely. McKechnie said that since CUNA has hired Legislative Affairs Manager Leon Peace, a tax legislation expert, the group will be more involved in the legislation this congressional session and plans to make even more suggestions for additional provisions. According to CUNA, a cost estimate on the Portman-Cardin bill has not been performed yet. -

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