Americans should get back any future government surpluses to save for their retirements, Capitol Hill's top budgeteers say.
"Along with providing Americans a stake in controlling Washington spending, this plan's investment opportunities give them a stake in a growing economy," said Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Bud-get Committee.Kasich and Senate Finance Committee chairman William Roth, R-Del., said Thursday they want to use projected budget surpluses to start personal retirement accounts for working Americans.
Kasich introduced legislation that would use 80 percent of any surpluses to make contributions into tax-free personal investment accounts for workers earning at least $2,800 a year. Everyone would get the same amount and could choose how to invest it from among several standard options, including corporate stocks, bonds or government securities.
Roth said he is still working out the details of his own proposal, but if current predictions of a $679 billion surplus over the next 11 years come true, he said every worker could get the equivalent of 1.4 percent of their earnings.
For now, the accounts would be just an add-on to Social Security, the payroll-tax-funded program that is now the foundation of most peoples' retirement income. However, many Republicans eventually would like to see at least some Social Security taxes diverted into a mandatory private savings system.
"These accounts may point the way to a permanent solution to Social Security's problems," said Roth.
Kasich and Roth said they will push Congress to set up the accounts this year, even though President Clinton has asked lawmakers to hold off spending any federal budget surplus.
Clinton, in his State of the Union address, said he wants the money set aside during a period of public discussion about how to keep the nation's retirement system from being overwhelmed by baby boomers. The president said he would ask Congress to undertake specific reforms next year.