Government pensions among budget bargaining points: ‘Why does Congress always pick on federal employees?’
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on December 05, 2013 at 7:44 AM, updated December 05, 2013 at 7:45 AM
Government employees would be required to contribute more towards their pensions while federal retirees would see their benefit cuts under a Republican proposal designed to offset the impact of sequestration.
Reps. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. and Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. have introduced the “Provide for the Common Defense Act” in an effort to roll back the Pentagon’s portion of sequestration through changes to federal benefits. The bill would also lower the federal deficit by some $200 billion over the next decade.
“Washington has a spending problem, but incessantly and mindlessly cutting national security will not get us out of our fiscal mess. Completely eliminating the Department of Defense (DOD) would not even pay off this year’s deficit – let alone seriously reduce our $17 trillion national debt,” Lamborn said. “Congress needs to give our military relief rather than use it as a punching bag.”
Sequestration, which went into effect in March, is set to take $500 billion from the Department of Defense over the next 10 years. It’s become a powerful bargaining tool in Senate/House Budget Committee negotiations, with lawmakers aiming to reach a spending agreement and end the sequestration cuts that military officials said are leading to a “hollow force.”
To make up the difference, the committee is considering a series of increases to other programs, including federal pension reforms. Lamborn and Bridenstine’s bill aims to accomplish the same thing and would return national security spending up to levels consistent with the budget previously passed by the House of Representatives.
The bill would change allow the government to use a less-generous formula for determining inflation rates that are used to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for both federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. It also would increase over three years the amount federal employees contribute towards their retirement accounts from 0.8 percent of their salaries to 2 percent and eliminate the Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement that provides extra benefits to certain employees who retire before they are eligible to collect Social Security.
All of the proposals were endorsed by President Obama in his 2014 budget plan.
Proposal criticized as too harmful for feds
While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem eager to avoid another budget impasse and government shutdown, the idea that federal workers will be called on to pay more towards their own retirement isn’t popular with everyone.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., wrote a letter to the heads of the budget committee, including Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., urging them to spare federal employees from benefit changes that essentially result in a pay cut.
“Over the last several years federal employees..have repeatedly been used as pawns in budget negotiations,” he wrote. “To date, changes in pay and pensions for the federal workforce have already generated $113 billion in savings.”
The letter includes a hand-written note from Wolf: “Why does Congress always pick on federal employees?”
Federal employee unions are speaking out against the proposal, too. In a letter to the budget committee, Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the proposal is nothing more than a “tax increase on federal workers.”
“Federal employees have already contributed more than $113 billion towards deficit reduction from the three-year pay freeze and an increase in retirement contributions for new hires beginning in 2013,” Beaudoin wrote. “No other group of American workers have been asked to give financially to their country the way federal employees have.
“Enough is enough.”