Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Udall noncommittal on changing entitlement programs' COLA formula

JESSE paul jesse.paul@gazette.com - Published: July 27, 2013

Sen. Mark Udall said Saturday that he remains undecided about a proposal to alter the cost-of-living index which dictates social programs nationwide.

During a members-only forum at The Broadmoor, local AARP constituents met with the organization's national president and Udall to discuss social programs.

Members gathered at the standing-room-only event in the resort's golf club to talk about social security and health care, asking questions of Udall and his plans for programs in connection with balancing the federal budget and deficit in upcoming Senate sessions. One of the focal topics was President Barack Obama's chained consumer price index proposal - known as chained CPI - which would lower cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security, veterans benefits and those using food stamps.

Udall said he was carefully weighing the proposal.

"At this point, I think it is important to exhaust every option with Social Security," Udall, a Democrat, told The Gazette. "There are a lot of things we can do before we turn to that."

Budget hawks in Washington, D.C., have urged the application of chained CPI to rein in spending on entitlement programs but the idea is being resisted by various groups, especially those representing retirees.

Social programs are important, Udall said, especially in an active senior citizen population like Colorado, as it impacts current and future generations while also driving fundamental economic activity and the nation's infrastructure.

"We have one of the strongest economies in the world," said Udall. "But boy, if we fix our infrastructure, the sky is the limit."

Udall said fielding the questions and concerns of his constituents was a helpful way to see the impact of social programs.

The gathering was part of AARP's You've Earned a Say national conversation about Social Security and Medicare, which organizers estimate have reached roughly one million people in Colorado and many more across the country in the last year.

"You have to make people aware, you have to educate people," Robert Romasco, AARP's national president, said. "They (politicians) need to hear from their constituents, which is why we have this campaign and we try to go to every state and community we can. We want to engage people and we want alert them to what the issues are. We want to give them a fair a presentation of not only what the issues are, but also the impact."

Romasco, who has traveled all over the country speaking with politicians and group members about Social Security, Medicare and health care reform, said chained CPI is something needs to be widely understood.

"It's a cumulative effect over time and it gets worse as you get older," he said. "The older you get, the more resource-challenged you are and the more you need."

Since chained CPI measures urban worker's living costs, one could argue that it's the wrong index for seniors, Romasco said.

"He (Udall) didn't commit to it, but I thought the impact of the arguments he heard was that he took them very seriously," Romasco said.

George and Hope Woodhead of Colorado Springs, who are both in their 60's and have a disabled son on social security, said they felt the presentation was a fair and a helpful way to see all sides of the issues. They added that they are hopeful conversations like Saturday's can help ensure social programs survive.

"I think his (Udall's) approach is logical," George Woodhead said. "Logic is something that's currently needed."

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Contact Jesse Paul at 636-0253. Twitter: @JesseAPaul.

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