Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Will Feds Pay for Student Loans and Highways?

ARCHIVES
Here we go again.


It’s a few days before major legislation expires, Congress is about to go on recess and federal employees’ benefits hang in the balance. This is familiar territory for those who watch federal pay and benefits issues closely: In the last year and a half, this scenario has played out too many times to count.

This time, it’s the debate over extending the reduced student loan interest rate, which expires July 1, and extending stopgap transportation funding, which expires June 30. To pay for the extensions, it’s possible that one or both measures could include provisions that would increase the amount federal workers contribute to their pensions. Lawmakers are hammering out the details now and expect to seal a deal by the end of this week. Lawmakers reportedly reached a tentative deal on the transportation bill, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press, though nothing is final.

Extending the current federal Stafford student loan interest rate of 3.4 percent for one year would cost about $6 billion. To help pay for that, Republicans have suggested making federal employees in both the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System contribute 0.4 percent more to their pensions in calendar years 2012 through 2015, a total of a 1.2 percent increase over current contribution levels. Democrats have offered their own proposals for funding the measure, which do not specifically affect feds’ retirement benefits. No one in a leadership position, however, has publicly said federal workers’ pensions are off the table as a pay-for.

Remember, the House in May passed a bill that includes a 5 percent pension hike phased in over five years for CSRS and FERS employees. That bill, however, is stalled in the Senate and the White House has said President Obama will veto it if it reaches him.

As for the highway bill, Congress passed a stopgap funding measure to prevent a shutdown of transportation-related activities through the end of June. That bill did not include provisions in the House-approved legislation that require federal employees and members of Congress to pay a total of 1.5 percent more toward their pensions over three years beginning in 2013.

So what are the odds federal retirement benefits will be affected? Capitol Hill aides aren’t saying much of anything at the moment, but it’s likely feds will escape the ax again this time around. The White House, however, supported hiking federal employees’ pension contribution rates in its fiscal 2013 budget proposal, so retirement benefits will continue to be on the table in many major policy debates for the foreseeable future.

SES Hiring Tips

Looking for helpful hints on hiring the best and the brightest senior executives? Agencies and human resources managers can peruse a resume-based “workbook” put together by the Office of Personnel Management and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. The tool aims to “provide hiring officials and executive resources staff with a framework, guidance, best practices and templates to improve the hiring of Senior Executive Service employees through more efficient and effective methods,” OPM Director John Berry said in a June 22 memorandum to agencies. Click here to take a look.

Per Diem Rates

The Defense Department on Thursday will publish in the Federal Register revised civilian per diem rates to government workers traveling to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, effective July 1. The updated maximum per diem rate for Guam, which includes lodging, meals and incidentals, is $255. There are four revised maximum per diem rates for the Northern Mariana Islands, depending on where you travel. They are: $236 for Rota, $227 for Saipan, $161 for Tinian and $161 for everywhere else.

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.