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Obama to push retirement plans in 2017 budget, officials say

Obama to push retirement plans in 2017 budget, officials say

President Barack Obama will offer a package of ideas to stimulate more workplace access to retirement savings when he unveils his fiscal year 2017 budget on Feb. 9, top administration officials said Monday.

“We have to promote new retirement security opportunities and test new models,” National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients said during a press briefing call with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. Mr. Zients called the package “an opportunity to update our social contract.”

The proposal will include requiring every employer not currently offering a retirement savings program to set up an auto-enrollment individual retirement account for workers, and tripling the startup credit that employers receive for offering a retirement plan.

The budget package also will propose a $100 million grant pilot program to determine how best to reach self-employed or those with stop-and-start work patterns, as well as a pilot program to encourage states to develop their own private-sector programs to increase access.

A centerpiece of the package is making it easier for employers to join multiple-employer plans by relaxing some of the requirements, such as having a common interest. “We are proposing to remove some of the obstacles while still keeping the protections,” said Mr. Perez, who plans to work with Congress to make the changes.

“These items should not be particularly controversial,” Mr. Perez said on the call, with politicians on both sides concerned about retirement security.

Mr. Zients noted the Affordable Care Act helps relieve “the job lock” that prevents some workers from changing jobs or careers, and said that acting on a proposal that could make retirement savings more portable and cover 30 million more Americans “should be common sense.”

In his State of the Union speech earlier this month, President Obama said that despite recovering from one of America's deepest economic crises, more people still need a “fair shot and opportunity in this new economy,” including more portable retirement savings.

Hazel Bradford writes for Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Business Insurance.

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