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KEY POINTS

MANDATORY SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE

• More than 70% of the nation’s fire fighters are not enrolled in the Social Security system. Instead, they participate in specialized fire fighter pension plans  that have been designed to reflect the unique circumstances of their profession, including early retirement ages and high rates of disability. Requiring Social Security coverage of all state and local government employees would undermine these tailored pension plans.

• Mandating Social Security coverage does nothing to ensure the retirement security of our nation’s first responders. Current law already ensures that public workers who are not enrolled in Social Security are covered by a pension system that pays retirement benefits that are at least as generous as Social Security.

• The revenue generated by mandatory coverage of state and local government workers would be marginal and temporary. The wholesale disruption of the retirement plans of our nation’s first responders is too heavy a price to pay for such a small contribution to the solvency of the Social Security system.

• Forcing fire fighters into the Social Security system would amount to an unfair 6.2% tax increase on these middle-income workers. At a time when many fire fighters have been forced to accept pay cuts and wage freezes, such a large tax hike would have a significant detrimental impact on family budgets.

• Paying the employer’s share of the Social Security tax would place a financial strain on many cash-strapped municipalities. A recent independent study found that mandating coverage just for new hires would cost state and local governments $53 billion over five years. This would lead to cutbacks in municipal services, including fire protection.

• It is not true that public employees are receiving Social Security benefits to which they are not entitled. Any Social Security benefits earned by non-covered public employees from a second job or through their spouse are significantly reduced.

• The creation of specialized public sector pension plans came in direct response to Congress prohibiting public employees from participating in Social Security. As recently as 1994, fire fighters in many states were not allowed to join the system. It is unfair to force public agencies to now curtail or abolish these well-crafted, secure plans just to generate a small amount of revenue to the Social Security Trust Fund.

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