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Question the Candidates Who Want To Represent You

Voting is your right. It’s your opportunity to speak through your ballot. Let your voice be heard. Learn about the issues. Question the candidates. Then get out and vote.

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Wyoming in Washington

Now that the Primary Election is behind us, AARP plans to ask Wyoming’s congressional candidates the following questions before the general election. Before heading to the voting booth, feel free to use these questions when assessing which candidates would best represent your interests. The candidates’ responses will be printed in the October issue of The Wyoming Sage.

Millions of older Americans have lost their jobs. How would you help Americans – especially those ages 50+ – get back to work and improve the economy for all Americans?

Fact: As of September 2011, jobseekers age 50+ had been out of work for an average of about a year, with 46 percent having been out of work for a year or more.

Today, nearly half of current retirees rely on Social Security as their primary source of income. What policies would you promote to help people save for retirement?

Fact: Nearly half of families headed by a person age 50+ had no money in retirement savings accounts.

How would you protect Social Security for today’s seniors and strengthen it for future generations?

Fact: A typical senior has a yearly income of $18,819. Seniors spend an average of $4,558 on food, $3,402 on utilities and $7,027 on housing, which leaves $3,832 for everything else, including medication.

How would you put Medicare on stronger financial ground and protect today’s seniors and future retirees from the burden of rising health care costs?

Fact: On average, Medicare beneficiaries spend $4,241 out of their own pockets on health care. When added to the expenses outlined above, the total adds up to $409 more than the typical senior receives each year from Social Security, and that’s not including transportation, entertainment and other expenses.

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Here in Wyoming

Many state legislative seats are up for election. Here are a few questions to consider asking candidates in your district.

Question: What measures will you support to assure consumers a voice in utility rate-setting cases? Will you support the continuation of the Office of Consumer Advocate to represent residential customers on utility issues?

AARP Wyoming’s position: For older individuals, particularly those living on fixed incomes, utility expenditures become a larger portion of the household budget as rates increase. Often consumers lose out to other purchasers when rate-setting formulas are adjusted to cover the costs of utility expansions. It is important for consumers to have an independent advocate with the expertise to understand rate-setting procedures and the impact of adjustments on consumers. AARP supports a transparent process for rate reviews including the Office of Consumer Advocate to represent residential customers.

Question: Will you oppose pension reform legislation that limits access to defined benefit plans or reduces promised benefits and Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) for existing workers and retirees?
AARP Wyoming’s position: AARP supports reforms to state pension funds that are fiscally responsible, ensure long-term viability of existing defined-benefit plans, and protect worker’s financial security. Proposals that reduce benefits retirees earned on the job will be opposed. AARP is especially attentive to workers who have contributed to a pension plan for a significant time, or those who are close to retirement. AARP will support legislative efforts to protect retirees from reduction or elimination of promised benefits and preserve access to defined benefit plans and cost-of-living adjustments.

Question: If budget cuts or tax reforms are implemented, how will you ensure that any such changes avoid hurting low- and moderate-income populations while also safeguarding the financial security of the 50+ population?

AARP Wyoming’s position: Budget-balancing efforts should avoid cuts in programs that serve low- and moderate-income populations, including cuts to Wyoming’s senior centers. AARP opposes inflexible tax and expenditure limits such as Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiatives.

Question: How will you protect consumer interests in the establishment of a health insurance exchange? Will you support an exchange with strong conflict of interest provisions for board members and a strong voice for small business and consumer purchasers?

AARP Wyoming’s position: AARP supports the creation of state health insurance exchanges that are governed and operated in a way that meets the needs of consumers, including strong conflict-of-interest provisions and protection against discrimination and fraud. This consumer-centric focus also requires an open process for board meetings and transparency in the governance of the exchange.

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