New Poll By The Senior Citizens League: Majority Feel “No Budget, No Pay” Gets Congress Back On Track

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Senior Citizens League members show that they support the No Budget, No Pay Act. Congress recently passed the Act that will put their pay in Escrow until they can pass a budget.

Chairman Larry Hyland

"A big battle affecting senior benefits is getting underway," Say TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland.

Americans were recently caught by surprise when Congress finally took the only budget idea known to have clear public approval, and swiftly enacted it into law — The No Budget, No Pay Act. The legislation provides just a temporary extension, until May 18, of the federal debt limit. But a new poll finds that senior Americans are responding favorably— so far at least.

    Under the legislation, if the House or the Senate do not pass a budget by April 15, the pay of members in that chamber will be held in escrow until they pass a budget, or until the last day of 113th Congress, which ends December 31, 2014. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget since 2009.

    According to a new poll by TSCL, one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups, 62 percent say they think the No Budget, No Pay Act is a smart move that gets the legislative process back on track. Only 23 percent said they were disappointed that House leaders didn’t hold out for spending cuts. Fifteen percent say they thought it was a gimmick, but at least lifting the debt limit allowed Social Security checks to go out on time.

    “But the much bigger battle affecting senior benefits is getting underway,” says TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland. Two of the leading deficit-reduction proposals affect today’s seniors. The most widely-discussed plans would make seniors wait longer or pay more for their Medicare benefits, and cut Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) by switching to a more slowly-growing consumer price index known as the “chained” CPI. Chaining the COLA has come up twice in recent months, during the December fiscal cliff negotiations and in recent days as President Obama has said that the chained CPI “is still on the table” as part of a bigger deal.

    According to estimates released by TSCL, the chained CPI would cut benefits by seven percent by the time today’s 62 year-old reaches age 87. An average monthly benefit of $1,200 today would be cut by about $153.

    “The combined effect of higher Medicare costs, and COLA cuts would make it much more difficult for middle income seniors’ resources to be adequate over a 25-year retirement,” Hyland says. “COLA cuts compound each year like interest and grow deeper as seniors reach their 80s and 90s when they are more likely to have chronic health problems,” he notes.

    A survey conducted by TSCL in the fall of 2011 found that 56 percent of respondents reported spending up to $299 a month on healthcare costs, and another 27 percent reported spending between $300 to $599 a month. “With the majority of seniors already spending one quarter or more of their Social Security benefits just on healthcare,” Hyland points out, “Making seniors pay more for Medicare costs while slowing the growth in Social Security benefits is simply not an option for the majority of seniors,” he adds.

    “It’s critical for seniors to play an active role in the debate over reducing the nation’s federal budget deficit,” Hyland says. “If we don’t find solutions to our budget problems now, secretive closed-door meetings to head off the next fiscal crisis will make those choices for us,” he warns. TSCL is organizing a major nationwide grassroots effort to encourage seniors to contact their elected lawmakers. Public opinion can influence votes in Congress!

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Shannon Benton
The Senior Citizens League
(703)548-5568
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