House Democrats: Don’t cut federal pay and benefits

More than a dozen House lawmakers are calling on their colleagues to avoid cutting federal pay and benefits to finance an extension of the payroll tax cut.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., along with 16 other House Democrats, sent a letter Wednesday to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., urging the payroll tax cut extension conference committee to reject any provisions that would reduce federal compensation to finance a final legislative deal. Cummings is the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Baucus is the leading Democrat on the conference committee negotiating the payroll tax cut extension.

Federal employees already have sacrificed in the name of deficit reduction, the letter stated, specifically mentioning the current two-year federal pay freeze. "Federal workers are also facing the possibility of furloughs and layoffs in the coming years as automatic spending reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 reduce budgets for agency discretionary salaries and expense accounts," the letter stated. "Subjecting these dedicated public servants to additional pay cuts and retirement benefit reductions in order to pay for such expenditures as a payroll tax cut for all middle-class Americans is unfair and illogical, particularly as the vast majority of federal workers are middle-income earners as well."

Further cuts in compensation also could hurt the government's ability to recruit and retain a talented workforce, the lawmakers said. The letter objected to reductions in current employees' benefits as well as to a proposal that would increase the amount new hires would contribute to their pensions.

"These members of Congress represent many thousands of federal employees and they are well aware of the significant contributions these dedicated working men and women make to our nation," said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Every federal employee welcomes their support."

Congress agreed to a two-month payroll tax cut extension before it left for recess in December. That deal did not include any provisions affecting federal workers' compensation, but the House-passed bill contains several such measures and some could find their way into the conference committee's final deal.

The cost of extending the payroll tax cut extension, unemployment insurance, and averting cuts in Medicare reimbursement fees to physicians through 2012 is about $160 billion. The House-passed bill estimates the proposals reducing federal pay and benefits would save about $65 billion.

Among the federal compensation provisions the conferees are considering to pay for the extensions:

  • A one-year extension of the current two-year pay freeze for federal civilian workers and lawmakers.
  • An increase in the amount federal employees and members of Congress contribute to their pensions. The increase would total 1.5 percent and be phased in over three years beginning in 2013.
  • Eliminating the Federal Employees Retirement System minimum supplement for individuals not subject to mandatory retirement starting in 2013. Individuals subject to mandatory retirement include certain categories of employees such as law enforcement, firefighters, air traffic controllers and nuclear materials couriers. Under current law, the FERS minimum supplement is paid to these employees and to federal employees who retire before age 62. The FERS minimum supplement represents the amount employees would have received from Social Security if they were 62 years old on the day they retired, and it is paid until they reach age 62 and begin receiving Social Security.
  • Changes in the retirement structure for new federal employees hired after 2012 and with fewer than five years of creditable service for retirement purposes. Federal workers in that group would contribute 4 percent to their pensions, an increase of 3.2 percent from the current 0.8 percent level. The employee contribution for special occupational groups and lawmakers would increase by a total of 3.2 percent, from 1.3 percent to 4.5 percent.
  • A high-five average salary calculation for annuities for new hires rather than the current high-three average pay calculation. Existing Civil Service Retirement System and FERS employees still would operate under the high-three calculation.

House and Senate conferees tentatively plan to meet again Feb. 1.

In addition to Cummings, the House Democratic lawmakers who signed the letter were: Bruce Braley of Iowa, William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Gerald Connolly of Virginia, Danny Davis of Illinois, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, Carolyn Maloney of New York, James McGovern of Massachusetts, Jim Moran of Virginia, Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Adam Schiff of California, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Edolphus Towns of New York, and Lynn Woolsey of California.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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