HONOLULU — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii on Thursday spoke out in favor of legislation to bolster Social Security that he is co-sponsoring with fellow Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Mark Begich of Alaska.
The bill would keep Social Security solvent through 2049 and increase benefits by about $65 a month. It would also change the way cost of living adjustments are calculated to more accurately reflect the costs seniors face, Schatz told reporters at a news conference.
Schatz said the legislation would help people such as his father-in-law, who depends on Social Security for his basic needs.
The average beneficiary receives $1,100 a month in Social Security benefits, he noted.
"It's really tough to get by on that dollar amount. And so every little bit helps," Schatz said.
The bill would bring in more revenue by taxing all wages for Social Security, instead of capping annual income taxed for the program at nearly $114,000. Employers would also pay more in payroll taxes.
"Currently, a person making $114,000 in income pays the same dollar amount in Social Security tax as someone who makes $3 or $4 million in income. We don't think that's fair. We think that's a problem in the tax code that has to be remedied," Schatz said.
Harkin introduced the bill in March. Schatz signed on as a co-sponsor on July 15, Begich on July 23.
Schatz said 1 in 6 people in Hawaii receive Social Security benefits. It's the sole source of income for 25 percent of Hawaii residents over the age of 65, he said.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running for Senate against Schatz, said she supports raising the taxable maximum. The Democrat also supports creating a hardship exemption for those who cannot work beyond the age of 62.
"I am committed to ensuring that our hardworking retirees receive the benefits they earned and expect into the future and will continue to work to defeat short sighted attempts to balance the budget on the backs of seniors," Hanabusa said in a statement.
Hanabusa said she joined colleagues on several bills during the last congressional session to protect Social Security from harmful cuts or reforms.