Miners, WV lawmakers push for pension bill

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Retired West Virginia miners are meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, asking them to move forward with a bill to save their pensions.

The funds for about 100,000 miners and their families could dry up in just a few years, and now they're asking for the federal government to step in.

Meantime, some groups say this would be a serious mistake.

"it’s just on your mind all the time,” said John Mason, a retired miner.

Mason says each month, his pension helps make ends meet on bills for food, health care and car expenses. But now, he's deeply concerned that could come to an end.

The United Mine Workers of America pensions could run out of money in the next several years.

"We would just probably end up having to sell our house," said Mason.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia, offer a solution.

"We have over 26,000 miners in West Virginia whose pensions are in danger right now, and we owe it to them to fix that," said Capito.

Supporters say this bill fulfills a promise first made by the Truman administration to ensure miners are taken care of.

But others, like the conservative Heritage Foundation, argue this sets a dangerous precedent.

"Never before in history has the federal government ever provided a bailout to a private sector pension like this," said Rachel Greszler, Heritage research fellow in economics, budget and entitlements.

Greszler says this plan would amount to $600 billion dollars over the next 10 years in government-backed loans. She believes the money would send the wrong message and only help a small portion of miners.

"I really hope they don’t step in and say taxpayers are going to pay for all those unfunded promises," said Greszler.

Wyoming lawmakers - Rep. Liz Cheney and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso - agree with that sentiment.

Enzi and Barrasso say this bill would also take resources away from their state.

Staffers for their offices tell us they strongly oppose the bill's plan to shuffle funds designated to clean up abandoned land mines.

Sponsors for the legislation though hope to see some traction on this bill either this year or early in 2018.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.