Ranking Member Larson Opening Statement at Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Social Security Coverage and Payroll Tax Compliance
Thank you, Chairman Johnson and Chairman Buchanan for holding this hearing. I’d like to say welcome back to Chairman Johnson; it is my hope that one day we can hold a field hearing on Social Security in Plano, Texas. Perhaps we can ask our staffs to get together to make this a reality and take the Ways & Means Committee directly to the people, your constituents in the great state of Texas.
Social Security is important to all Americans. I dare you to find a plan on the private market that provides the same guaranteed retirement income that cannot be outlived, protection in the event of a career-ending disability, life insurance for the families of a worker who dies, and full Cost of Living Adjustments to combat the effects of inflation. Social Security is also fully portable as workers move between jobs.
Today, 94 percent of workers in the U.S. are covered by Social Security. They and their employers contribute to the Trust Fund and earn their benefits with every paycheck, with half of the contributions coming from the employee and half from the employer. But it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that they are in compliance with payroll taxes.
The only large group of workers that are outside of Social Security are some state and local government workers, who have their own pension plan in place of Social Security. About three-quarters of state and local workers participate in Social Security, but about a quarter don’t. In my own state of Connecticut, teachers have a separate retirement plan and are not participating in Social Security. But they have an alternative plan that they pay for. Regardless – the fundamental principle is that one way or the other, every American should have basic retirement coverage at work. Our job today is to make sure this is the case.
For the 90,000 units of state or local government in the U.S., it can be complicated sometimes to determine which employees are participating in Social Security, and who pays in to the state plan. But when mistakes are made, workers’ financial security is at stake. That is why this hearing today is important.
We here in Congress must guard these protections. That’s why I’ve introduced my bill to expand and strengthen Social Security – the Social Security 2100 Act. That is why I am glad our two Subcommittees have come together for this important hearing.
Congress must also do its part to ensure that state and local governments are complying with the rules, by making sure the Internal Revenue Service has the tools and resources needed to make sure that taxes are being paid correctly, and that workers are earning the benefits they are counting on for retirement. I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses and thank Chairmen Johnson & Buchanan, and Ranking Member Lewis for addressing this issue in a bipartisan manner.