House GOP Group Envisions Massive Changes to Civil Service in Budget Proposal

A group of more than 150 conservative House lawmakers unveiled its plan for the fiscal 2019 budget Wednesday, which includes a complete transformation of the civil service that removes most protections for workers.

The Republican Study Committee released its plan, entitled “A Framework for Unified Conservatism,” and said it would balance the federal budget within eight years. That feat comes in no small part from its drastic changes to the civil service system, outlined under the heading “Deconstruct the Administrative State.”

The group proposed that all federal employees become “at-will,” able to be fired at any time. Additionally, the plan called for capping hiring at one employee for every three who leave the federal workforce, and it would end the practice where federal union officials perform representational duties while at work, known as official time.

The lawmakers took President Trump’s plan to freeze federal civilian employee pay in 2019 one step further, suggesting the government get rid of across-the-board raises altogether.

“Automatic raises for federal employees should be eliminated,” the RSC stated. “Pay increases for federal employees should be merit-based not automatic, while still limited to parallel pay increases in the private sector.”

The budget also proposed using the recently revived Holman Rule, which allows Congress to reduce the salaries associated with federal positions to as little as $1, in appropriations bills “to remove unneeded positions.”

The proposal endorsed a slew of White House plans to reduce retirement benefits for feds, including increasing employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System pension by 1 percentage point per year over five years, eliminating cost of living adjustments for FERS employees, and reducing COLAs for employees in the Civil Service Retirement System.

It also included plans to base pension benefits on the highest five years of an employee’s salary, instead of the current high three, and it would eliminate the FERS supplement for federal employees who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62. It would base the returns of the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities (G) fund on the yield of the short term Treasury bill, a significant decrease from the current rate.

The Republican Study Committee’s plan also would redesign the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program into a “premium support system.”

“[Currently], participants choose from a range of plans and pay for about 30 percent of premiums, with the federal government covering the remaining 70 percent,” the group wrote. “Because this ratio does not change with the higher-priced coverage options, federal employees have the incentive to choose the more expensive plans on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Instead, the government would offer a “standard federal contribution”—a flat amount—to help pay for health insurance, which the group said would “encourage employees to purchase plans with the appropriate amount of coverage that fits their needs.”

“The government should also reduce the employer contributions to premiums, to more closely align with the private sector,” the lawmakers wrote.

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