As questions loom about the future of Social Security, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is supporting a proposal that aims to expand benefits and keep the program solvent for another 75 years. The New York Democrat is co-sponsoring a bill reintroduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders that seeks to achieve this by lifting the cap on maximum taxable earnings that are subject to the Social Security payroll tax.
Currently, the cap is set at $160,200, meaning any income above that total is not taxed. Gillibrand and other Democrats have criticized the cap because high-income earners do not have to pay more into the program. For example, someone who earns $160,200 a year would pay the same amount of Social Security taxes as someone who earns $1 million.
“The program is funded by American taxpayers,” Gillibrand said in a press conference on Thursday. “But the truth is the wealthiest Americans don’t pay their fair share. Millionaires pay a much lower percentage of their income than everybody else.”
The bill, co-sponsored by nine Democrats including Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, would also change how cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. This reform could increase Social Security benefits by up to $2,400 annually. The Social Security Administration would use a Consumer Price Index specifically for older Americans to determine cost-of-living adjustments, which would be based on how older individuals spend their money.
The bill is unlikely to move forward in the current Congress with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, Gillibrand wants to ensure that the program remains available for the nearly 3.5 million older New Yorkers who are eligible for Social Security benefits and younger people who anticipate receiving those benefits later in life.
“Retiring Americans have worked and contributed to our economy for their entire working lives,” Gillibrand said. “They have paid into Social Security with every paycheck and they have already done their part to support the older generations that have come before them. They deserve to retire with dignity, too.”
The proposed legislation faces opposition from Republicans who do not want to raise taxes. If the bill becomes law, high-income earners would pay more in Social Security taxes. The Social Security trust fund has enough money to pay out full benefits until 2035, but Gillibrand wants to ensure the long-term viability of the program for future generations.
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