A measure to bolster the finances of defined-benefit pensionplans has been eliminated from the U.S. Senate's jobs bill, in amove Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described as an effort toget the jobs legislation passed quickly.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said that he plans to bring theslimmed-down jobs bill to the Senate floor on Feb. 22, according tonews reports. Components eliminated from the bill, which includeextensions of unemployment benefits and the federal subsidy forCOBRA premiums as well as the pension funding measure, would bepresented as a separate piece of legislation at a later date. Thejobs bill seeks to encourage hiring by giving companies anexemption from the 6.2% Social Security tax they pay on wages forworkers they hire this year who have been out of work for at least60 days.

Funding for defined-benefit pension plans was hit hard by themarket crisis, and although stocks have recovered a portion oftheir losses, the very low interest rates have boosted plans'liabilities. A Mercer study of 874 corporate pension plans releasedearlier this month calculated that the plans were starting 2010with an aggregate funding ratio of 92%, down from 111% at the startof 2009. And 36% of the plans had ratios below 80% at the start ofthis year, versus just 7% at the start of last year. Mercercalculates at the plans' aggregate required contributions for 2010will be 126% higher than their contributions in 2009.

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