A coalition of the nation's largest corporations and trade groups on Wednesday presented Congress with a wish list for "a common sense pension reform bill" that doesn't drive employers to kill defined benefit pension plans.
Coalition members want the pension bill that emerges from Senate-House negotiations this year to average out the interest rates companies use to calculate liabilities and to let them "smooth" pension plan assets over several years. They also asked lawmakers for time to make changes before the legislation kicks in; the ability to build a cushion of additional contributions for their pension funds in good times; and creation of separate funding rules for rural cooperatives that are multiple employer plans. Additionally, they want to avoid basing a company's funding requirements on credit ratings and keep PBGC premiums reasonable.
Members of the coalition - including blue-chip companies such as AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Xerox Corp.; trade associations representing the auto, paper and telecommunications industries; and the American Benefits Council and the ERISA Industry Committee - also asked Congress to clarify the legal status of existing cash balance plans and not require companies to offer protection for middle-age workers when converting to cash balance plans.