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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Officials Debate Implications of CBO Pay Report

Tuesday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office comparing the compensation of federal employees with their counterparts in the private sector is provoking mixed reactions from lawmakers and union officials.

The study concluded that while federal employees with bachelor’s degrees and less earned significantly more in total compensation than their counterparts in the private sector, those with advanced degrees have lagged behind their peers outside of government. What’s driving the gap between public and private sector workers with high school and undergraduate degrees is primarily attributable to the value of federal employees’ defined benefit pension plan and a decrease in federal hiring—older federal workers tend to earn more because they’ve been on the job longer, the report said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and commissioned the study, said the gap between public sector and private sector pay demonstrates the need to change how the government compensates employees.

“CBO’s report underscores the urgent need for comprehensive civil service reform,” he said in a statement. “We need a system that values and rewards performance over longevity. The committee is embarking on various reforms to bring accountability and modernization to...

A Guide to Your Pay and Benefits During a Government Shutdown, and More

When lawmakers return to Washington next week, they will have only a few days to approve a spending measure in order to avert a government shutdown beginning April 29.

It remains unclear whether Congress and the White House can come to an agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the government in time, or if they will allow appropriations to lapse. Here’s what federal workers can expect in the realm of pay and benefits if the government closes, based on guidance from the Office of Personnel Management from the last shutdown in October 2013.

Salaries: Agencies are required to pay employees deemed essential or exempt from the shutdown, although that money won’t arrive until after the government reopens. Furloughed employees have no guarantee that they will be compensated at the end of the shutdown, although Congress traditionally has issued back pay. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., already has introduced legislation to ensure all federal workers are paid swiftly if Congress misses its deadline and agencies close.

Bonuses: Agencies can award performance bonuses during a shutdown, but they won’t be paid until after the government reopens.

Unemployment: Federal workers who are furloughed are eligible for unemployment compensation in some...

Predicted Federal Retirement Spike Hasn’t Materialized, But a Pay Raise Has

The big news this week is Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s budget guidance to federal agencies, which ends the hiring freeze that began Jan. 23 but requires departments to come up with plans to reduce spending and shrink the federal workforce.

Mulvaney confirmed that President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request will include an across-the-board 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, though the budget director didn’t specify what portion of the increase would be included in base pay, and what would go toward locality adjustments.

As Eric Katz reported, “the increase would be slightly less than the 2.1 percent raise feds received in 2017, though it would eclipse the 1.6 percent pay bump President Obama initially proposed for this year.” Obama increased the rate only to match a Congressionally-mandated raise for military service members. The raise isn’t official though—Trump still must take additional steps before it can be implemented.

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association president Dick Thissen applauded the raise, but said it’s insufficient under the circumstances: “Following years of below-market raises and frozen pay, both Congress and the President should pursue a more robust increase...

Union Fires Back at Pension-Cutting Bill, the IRS Gets Managers’ Pay Wrong and More

A union representing federal law enforcement employees is turning up the heat against Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., over his bill that would reduce the pensions of government workers who spend too much of their work day on union representational activity.

The legislation (H.R. 1364), which the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced last month, would prevent federal employees who spend more than 80 percent of their day on official time for the union from counting that toward their retirement benefits, and it would make them ineligible for bonuses. It also would prohibit federal employees from performing lobbying activities while on official time.

Federal employee unions have argued that the bill is a union-busting measure that would silence workers. Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, said Tuesday he has tried to get in touch with Hice to discuss the issue, but the congressman’s office has been “unresponsive.” Now Young is trying a new approach: two roadside billboards in Hice’s home district encouraging constituents to contact the lawmaker directly with their objections.

“We want to educate his constituency in his district that we’re the people who protect you,” Young...

Another Shutdown Watch, Potential RIFs, Rescinding Bonuses and More

There’s a lot of anxiety about the Trump administration’s budget plan for 2018, but a more immediate issue for federal employees is the 2017 budget. Agencies are funded only through April 28 under a continuing resolution passed last year. If lawmakers can’t reach agreement on a spending package before then, we’re looking at another government shutdown.

While some lawmakers from both parties seem eager to avoid a showdown over spending for the remainder of the fiscal year, President Trump threw Congress a curveball with his request to cut $18 billion from non-defense agencies to help offset the $30 billion boost he wants to give the Pentagon before Sept. 30. (That’s in addition to $3 billion in extra funding he wants to give Homeland Security, in part to start building a wall on the border with Mexico.)  

As Eric Katz reported today:

Such a hit with just five months to absorb it would wreak havoc across the government, with agencies likely turning to continued hiring freezes and furloughs to meet the reduced funding levels.

To help agencies prepare for the potential impact of severe budget cuts, the Office of Personnel Management this week issued new guidance...

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