More than two million hardworking Pennsylvanians don’t have access to retirement savings plans through their jobs. This lack of access has long-term impacts on both the personal lives of these individuals and each and every taxpayer in our state.

Right now, we have a chance to help those Pennsylvanians save for retirement — but we must act quickly. We can give them that opportunity by enacting a state-level savings program, known as Keystone Saves, which allows employers — without charge — to offer retirement plans to their employees by setting up a simple payroll deduction.

Keystone Saves has bipartisan support, and nine other states have successfully enacted similar programs. Pennsylvania should act now to join them because the federal government is actively pursuing a clunky, heavy-handed approach to the same issue.

The reconciliation bill being debated in Congress as part of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan includes a provision to establish a national retirement savings plan. Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, the federal approach is one-size-fits-all, and it includes complicated, onerous provisions — as well as harsh tax penalties — that would disproportionately and negatively impact small businesses.

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The federal proposal requires employers to spend an inordinate amount of time establishing and managing the program — time they don’t have as our economy continues to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. For example, employers would be required to choose specific IRA plans for their employees, investing time and resources to understand the intricacies of the various options. With Keystone Saves, employers simply establish a payroll deduction.

The federal plan would be imposed on every employer with five or more employees in just one year. In contrast, Keystone Saves includes a four-year phase in period, a commonsense approach that allows businesses to plan ahead.

And while the federal bill includes a harsh $10 per-employee, per-day tax penalty for noncompliance, Keystone Saves takes a much more collaborative approach — we work with employers instead of treating them like enemies.

Our program will work much like the Pennsylvania 529 College and Career Savings Program does today. Individual savings accounts will be established to guarantee that every dollar contributed to the program belongs to the employees, who will choose the investment plan that works best for them.

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When someone changes jobs, they’ll be able to take their Keystone Saves account with them. And if an employee doesn’t want to participate, they can easily opt out.

Almost anyone can see that Keystone Saves is better for employees, better for employers, and better for taxpayers. The one exception is the insurance industry.

Massive insurance companies are lobbying hard in Washington, D.C., to get Congress to pass the federal bill — spending who-knows-how-much on the effort.

Why would insurers oppose a plan that’s clearly so much better for our state? Follow the money.

The federal mandate supported by the insurance industry would create a captive market for insurers and other financial firms — in other words, large insurance companies stand to make millions upon millions of dollars if enacted.

And Pennsylvania businesses and their employees would lose: insurance companies are often a major provider of retirement products to small businesses.

The proposed federal legislation, however, includes a grandfathering provision that will exempt employers in states with their own existing state-sponsored employee savings programs from having to comply with the federal scheme. Which means now is the time to act here in Pennsylvania.

If we do nothing, that lack of retirement savings will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than $14 billion in increased state social services over 15 years and will reduce tax collections by nearly $1.5 billion over that same time frame.

I urge the members of the General Assembly to take prompt action on Keystone Saves, and I look forward to working with them to bring a better retirement savings program to the millions of hardworking Pennsylvanians who need it.

Stacy Garrity is the treasurer of Pennsylvania. She is a former vice president at Global Tungsten & Powders Corp., a global supplier of refractory powders, and she retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army Reserve.