Bipartisan legislation that would allow agencies to give bonuses of up to $10,000 to federal employees who save the government money is headed to the Senate floor.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act on Wednesday, a bill that would allow an agency inspector general to pay awards of up to $10,000 to federal workers who identify waste. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner introduced the legislation a year ago.
“I think it’s trying to align incentives in the government the way we do in the private marketplace,” said Paul during the markup, emphasizing that the idea is to cut costs and find savings associated with surplus funds, not money the department needs to carry out its mission or congressional mandates.
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“Our bipartisan proposal encourages federal agencies to return unused funds instead of rushing to spend-down their appropriations at the end of every fiscal year,” Warner said in a statement after the vote. “When we empower federal employees to identify surplus funds instead of encouraging the ‘use it or lose it’ mentality, we are better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Some Democrats, including Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, praised the idea behind the legislation, but also worried that senior officials in agencies could use the incentive to justify starving programs they don’t like or agree with of appropriated funds. “I know we are talking about staplers and hammers, but we might be talking about more than that, quite frankly,” Tester said. “I do understand what you’re saying, but I think it does open up an opportunity for real mischief among unelected folks.”
Paul said he has incorporated the proper checks and balances into the legislation. “We’ve worked with others to make sure that this money that is found is definitely surplus money, not something going toward the mission as intended, but simply surplus and waste.”