The Spectacle Blog

Payback Time

By on 9.30.05 | 10:19AM

Lost amid the Roberts confirmation, hurricanes and how to pay for them, and other political shennanigans is a piece of legislation that is moving quickly through Congress that may have a huge effect on big businesses in the coming months.

In both the House and the Senate, committees are quickly moving bills through on pension reform that would accomplish a number of things, not the least of which is requiring companies to fully fund their pension accounts for retirees. This is a good thing, particularly if you are a legislator with a large district full of, oh, say, automotive or airline employees.

But critical for big businesses is the catch-up period Congress may set to get their funds 100 percent funded. Originally, there was a three-year funding requirement. Now, the Senate is considering 90 days, a huge difference, particularly if you are looking at an 80% funded pension account in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. That's a lot of money to come up with, even if you're a company looking at making up a two or three percent shortfall.

Things appear to be in flux, but consider that yesterday the Senate attempted to jump this pension bill over a Defense reconciliation bill for possible consideration on the floor. That was blocked, but the speed at which this legislation is moving has the whiff of something moving too fast to be good for anyone.

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