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Reagan Backs Higher Social Security Despite Low Inflation

July 15, 1986|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Reagan agreed today to back an election-year effort to boost Social Security benefits by removing the inflation "trigger" that permits annual increases only when the cost-of-living rises more than 3%, Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) said.

Hawkins, up for reelection this year in a state heavily populated by retirees, told reporters outside the White House after a brief meeting with Reagan that he "agrees with me (and) will approve this."

White House spokesman Albert R. Brashear acknowledged that Reagan agreed to the proposal. He said he could not estimate how much it would add to the federal deficit.

Hawkins, who noted that 23% of her Florida constituents live on fixed incomes, claimed that the benefit increase would not add to the deficit but would actually be a "saving." She did not explain how.

No Explanation

Reagan, who has battled for legislation to balance the budget and who has championed reductions in domestic spending, was not available to explain his apparent policy reversal.

According to one projection, if the cost of living rose 0.9% this year, extra payments over a five-year period for that one cost-of-living adjustment would total $1.7 billion.

However, under current law, if inflation doesn't trigger an increase this year but does exceed the 3% minimum next year, all benefit checks for the following year would be increased to include the inflation accrued during both years. And what's more, the increase would be paid to all pensioners, not just those who were already retired this year and thus missed a COLA.

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