House Democrats Pen Letter Blasting Proposed Federal Retirement Cuts

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the lawmakers who took the lead on the letter. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the lawmakers who took the lead on the letter. Susan Walsh/AP

More than 100 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday to oppose the cuts to federal employee retirement programs as outlined in President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

Lawmakers, led by Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., described Trump’s budget request as an “assault” on federal workers, retirees and their families, calling the proposed reforms to employee retirement programs “tantamount to a pay cut.”

While the Trump budget would give civilian federal employees a 1.9 percent pay hike in 2018 and military personnel a 2.1 percent raise next year, it proposes a 1 percent increase in employees’ contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System each year for the next six years. It also would reduce by O.5 percent cost of living adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System beneficiaries, and eliminate COLAs altogether for FERS employees and retirees.

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Other proposals in the budget would change the calculation for pension payments to be based on federal employees’ highest five years of salary instead of the current highest three, and eliminate the supplement for employees who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62.

The Democratic coalition particularly called out the decision to target both current and future employees and retirees’ benefits as unfair.

“This breaks a promise,” they wrote. “We should not alter policies that families have planned their lives around, particularly when it affects current retirees with limited ability to make up for unforeseen reductions in expected income.”

The letter to House leadership is just the latest backlash against the Trump administration’s proposals on federal workers’ retirement benefits. Federal unions and management groups roundly criticized the measures upon the budget request’s release, and some Democrats—including Connolly—have already spoken out in opposition.

Officials with the American Federation of Government Employees announced Wednesday that they recently sent letters to every member of Congress urging lawmakers to fight the retirement cuts.

“The Trump administration’s [fiscal] 2018 budget proposal scapegoats federal employees for fiscal and economic problems they had no part in creating,” wrote AFGE Legislative Director Tom Kahn. “No other group of middle class Americans has contributed to deficit reduction the way federal employees have. It is time to find other ways to reduce the deficit than continually taking from middle class employees who have dedicated their lives to public service.”

National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon applauded the effort by congressional Democrats.

“If enacted into law, these cuts would adversely impact every current, past and future federal employee for the rest of their lives,” Reardon. “We commend these members of Congress for their strong opposition to yet another attack on the nonpolitical civil servants who have already endured pay freezes, unpaid furloughs and increased retirement contributions.”

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