3. In 2001, the Commission to Strengthen Social Security (CSSS) issued a report which rejected a scheme to mandate participation in Social Security for newly hired State and local government employees currently outside the Social Security system. Will you pledge to oppose any plan and veto any legislation which includes a provision mandating participation in the Social Security system for either current or newly hired State and local government employees that do not currently participate in Social Security?
Obama: I am committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security for future generations, without gambling Social Security benefits on the stock market, slashing benefits, or failing to protect retirees from seeing their basic benefits reduced. Any reform should strengthen retirement security for the most vulnerable, including low-income seniors, and maintain robust disability and survivors’ benefits. While some have proposed extending mandatory Social Security coverage to all newly hired public employees to help close our funding shortfall, I have not supported any plan to mandate this coverage.
Romney: One of the great strengths of our system of government is the principle of federalism — the idea that we are stronger as a nation when each state is given the freedom to pursue its own course and adopt the policies best for its own citizens. We have a president today who rejects this founding principle, and instead believes that Washington has the best one-size-fits-all solution to all of our problems. I disagree. That is why, across a broad range of issues, I have proposed taking power away from Washington and giving it to the states. If state and local governments want to provide their employees with alternative pension programs that provide retirement security, the federal government should welcome that effort instead of seeking to interfere with it.
4. The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports legislation which provides minimal collective bargaining rights for public safety employees (i.e., law enforcement officers and firefighters). What is your position on public employee collective bargaining? In the 111th Congress, the FOP strongly supported H.R. 413/S. 1611, the “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act.” If elected, will your Administration actively support the enactment of similar legislation and will you sign the bill if it is passed by Congress? Would you also support similar provisions that would allow uniform and non-uniform Federal law enforcement officers to unionize and engage in collective bargaining?
Obama: In the Senate, I was an original co-sponsor of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, and I would sign this legislation with pride.
Romney: I disagree with the Fraternal Order of Police on this point. As I noted above, I believe that labor unions — including public employee unions — can be constructive forces in our communities and I would look forward to working closely with them as president. But it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who observed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” I agree with this view, and I would not support an expansion of collective bargaining rights for public employees.
5. The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports legislation which would articulate the rights of law enforcement officers who are, in a number of jurisdictions, denied their due process rights by police administrators and management. Are you a cosponsor of H.R. 1789, the “State and Local Law Enforcement Discipline, Accountability and Due Process Act,” which protects the due process rights of law enforcement officers in non-criminal, administrative proceedings? If elected, will your Administration actively support its enactment and will you sign the bill if it is passed by Congress?
Obama: I remain committed to the protection of both political rights and due process rights of all workers, including those who put their lives on the line to defend others’ constitutional rights. I continue to support this important piece of legislation and if enacted by Congress, I will sign it.
Romney: I stand second to no one in my commitment to protecting due process rights for all Americans, and as president I will work to ensure that every level of government in the United States complies scrupulously with every applicable provision of our Constitution. Nowhere are such protections more important than in the context of law enforcement, where our public servants are repeatedly called upon to make split-second life-or-death decisions in the face of murky facts and when the possibility of mistake is unavoidable. However, I do not believe that it is the place of the federal government to impose specific processes or standards on state and local governments. As I described above, I believe that the principles of federalism have served our nation well and can continue to do so. Local communities should be responsible for the management of their own public safety institutions, and I expect that such local control will ultimately benefit not only the communities but also the law enforcement officers who serve them.
6. The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports H.R. 327/S. 985, the “Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act,” which would expand the definition of “law enforcement officer” under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System to include all Federal police officers, as well as Customs and Immigration Inspectors. What is your position regarding the current disparity in the pay and benefits provided to law enforcement officers across the Federal government, and what measures will you support to ensure parity among the Federal government’s first responders? If elected, will your Administration actively support its enactment? Will you sign the bill if it is passed by Congress?
Obama: Yes, I continue to support the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act and would sign this legislation if passed by Congress.
Romney: I have not carefully studied the current compensation policies for all types of public safety officers in the federal government. In general, I believe that we must make sure that all federal employees are fairly compensated for the work they do, taking account of the physical demands and threats to personal safety a job entails.