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Neal Opening Statement at Markup of Retirement, Tax Administration, and Reemployment Services Legislation

(As prepared for delivery)

Today, I am honored to Chair the first markup of the Ways and Means Committee for the 116th Congress. We have three bills before us today that are the product of bipartisan collaboration and I think they are a testament to the fact that the Ways and Means Committee is where we find solutions and get things done for the American people.

I want to be clear with members on both sides of the aisle that as Chairman I will always hold all members to the highest standards of decorum.  How we debate the difficult issues before this committee and how we treat each other when we sit on this dais reflects not only our individual character, but also our respect for the institution that we serve. 

And with that I will turn to the bills before us today. 

Notably, we are considering a measure that represents a major bipartisan accomplishment for this committee, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act – or the SECURE Act.  One of my priorities as Chairman of this committee is helping American workers of all ages prepare for a financially secure retirement.  So I’m delighted to be marking up this legislation today.  I think it's particularly fitting that we're acting on this bill today since April is financial literacy month.  I’d like to thank Ranking Member Brady and Representatives Kind and Kelly for joining me on this bill.

In fact, I want to take a minute to recognize Representative Kind and Representative Kelly for their leadership on this issue.  Representative Kind has been a long-time champion of retirement issues and was the sponsor of the multiple employer plan provision that will be added in by the substitute amendment. This provision will make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees, and will result in the formation of an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 new retirement accounts.

Representative Kelly is also a leader on these issues.  He has remained committed to working together to get retirement legislation over the finish line. I’m very pleased that we could do that today.

Unfortunately, Americans currently face a retirement income crisis, with too many people in danger of not having enough in retirement to maintain their standard of living and avoid sliding into poverty.

Social Security benefits are modest, employer-sponsored pensions are disappearing, and too many Americans find it difficult to save for retirement.

The SECURE Act goes a long way in addressing this problem by making it easier for Americans to save.  For example, the legislation includes a small employer automatic enrollment credit.  Automatic enrollment has been shown to increase employee participation and retirement savings. Our bill creates a new tax credit of up to $500 per year to employers to defray startup costs for new section 401(k) plans that include automatic enrollment. 

The SECURE Act also allows long-term, part-time workers to participate in their employers’ 401(k) plans.  Women are more likely to work part-time than men.  So this legislation is particularly important for women, and I thank Representative Murphy for her leadership in this area.

This is landmark legislation, and I hope all of my colleagues will join me supporting it today. 

I’m also pleased to announce that Ranking Member Brady and I will be working on an additional retirement bill.   While we are taking an important first step today, much more needs to be done.  Over the coming months, the Ranking Member and I plan to put together another bill that will close the coverage gap, simplify the retirement system, and help Americans preserve their assets in retirement. 

I hope that our committee colleagues– both Democrats and Republicans – will come to us with ideas.  My goal is to mark up this second retirement bill before the August recess.  And again, I thank the Ranking Member for working with me on this important initiative.

Now, turning to the other bills before us today. H.R. 1759, the BRIDGE for Workers Act, is bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representative Stephanie Murphy. The bill builds on legislation that was enacted last year to expand and improve access to reemployment services for workers who receive earned unemployment benefits while looking for new jobs. That legislation assisted workers and also saved taxpayers’ money.

Representative Murphy’s bill makes a simple but very important change to the law to make it even more effective by allowing states to tailor their programs to help any recipient of unemployment benefits get back to work faster, rather than limiting these important supports to those who are expected to remain unemployed until their benefits run out.

The final bill we will consider today is the Taxpayer First Act of 2019, which would, among other things, strengthen and modernize the IRS, improve taxpayer services, and protect Americans from identity theft. 

I applaud Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis and Ranking Member Mike Kelly for their leadership on this package.  Chairman Lewis has been a strong advocate for this bill, which sailed through the House three times last Congress.  I am also pleased that this bill enjoys bicameral support and has been introduced by Senate Finance Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Wyden.

The Taxpayer First Act contains many provisions that would help low- and moderate-income taxpayers.  For example, one important provision would codify the existing IRS Free File program, under which the IRS partners with the tax preparation community to offer free online tax filing to people whose incomes fall in the bottom 70 percent.  I’ve been a long-time champion of the Free File program. 

Another important provision would codify the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, under which the IRS partners with nonprofit and community groups to offer income tax assistance to people with low incomes, limited English skills, or other barriers to tax compliance. 

I thank the Oversight Subcommittee Members for their hard work and encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation.

I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member Mr. Brady for the purpose of an opening statement.


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