What’s in store for federal pay and benefits if Ryan becomes speaker? A likely hit.

Federal Eye

What’s in store for federal pay and benefits if Ryan becomes speaker? A likely hit.

Federal Diary

By Joe Davidson October 20 at 6:13 PM

As the “will he, won’t he” game swirls around Rep. Paul Ryan’s decision to be or not to be speaker of the House, one question looms for the federal worker — what does it mean for me?

The answer – a potential hit on your pocketbook.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington in February 2014. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Unlike so much of what passes for news in Washington, this isn’t just speculation. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, left an unambiguous record during his four years as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

During that tenure, which ended in January, Ryan led the House in approving legislation that would effectively cut federal employees’ pay by forcing them to contribute more toward pensions with no increase in benefits, kill a retirement program for certain government staffers and eliminate student loan reimbursements. In his budget plans for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, Ryan pushed for even longer federal pay freezes than the three-year basic pay freeze initiated by President Obama. Additionally, Ryan repeatedly sought to reduce the number of federal employees through attrition. Feds were saved when many of his proposals were not adopted by the Senate, then controlled by Democrats.

Ryan’s votes have earned him failing grades on voting scorecards tabulated by federal employee organizations. In recent tallies, the American Federation of Government Employees scored him zero for failing to agree with the organization’s legislative positions a single time. He did a little better with the National Treasury Employees Union, 10 percent, and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) with 15 percent. Continue reading “What’s in store for federal pay and benefits if Ryan becomes speaker? A likely hit.”

Look for Lawmakers to Again Target Feds’ Benefits

Look for Lawmakers to Again Target Feds’ Benefits

Architect of the Capitol

Amid all the tumult in the House, Congress still faces a series of deadlines and must-pass bills, and federal employees’ pay and benefits could once again be on the chopping block.

The date foremost on the minds of federal workers is Dec. 11, when the current stopgap funding measure will expire and Congress must once again act to stave off a government shutdown. Leaders on Capitol Hill are currently engaged in budget negotiations to lift sequester caps and set top-line spending levels. But in order to raise the funding for federal agencies above the anemic levels created by the 2011 Budget Control Act, lawmakers and President Obama must agree on ways to offset the costs.

In 2013, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., agreed to break sequester caps in fiscal 2014 and 2015. To offset those expenses, the Ryan-Murray budget deal — among other provisions — raised the amount that new federal employees must contribute to their pension funds to 4.4 percent of their paychecks. Initially, Republicans fought to apply the change to current feds, but Democrats successfully fended off that effort.

Continue reading “Look for Lawmakers to Again Target Feds’ Benefits”

Will Republicans Target Feds With a Return to the Ryan Budget?

Will Republicans Target Feds With a Return to the Ryan Budget?

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is no longer chairman of the Budget Committee, but the cuts to federal workers' benefits in his past proposals might live on.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is no longer chairman of the Budget Committee, but the cuts to federal workers’ benefits in his past proposals might live on. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

During his four-year tenure as the panel’s chairman, Ryan laid out several blueprints for the government’s budget. They attempted to eliminate the federal deficit, which meant draconian cuts to federal agencies’ spending levels. It also meant direct attacks on federal employees, including proposals for: a 10 percent cut in the size of the workforce, higher retirement pension contribution levels, the elimination of the annuity supplement for certain young federal retirees and the end of student loan repayment for federal employees.

Ryan’s budget proposals twice passed the House, but were held up in the Senate. That could all change with Republicans taking control of the upper chamber. While Ryan has moved on to the position of the House’s top tax man, his ideas linger over the congressional budget committees. His successor, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and the Senate budget leader, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., will bring separate proposals forward next week. Both are expected to seek a balanced budget by 2025.

“A balanced budget is essential for strong economic growth and job creation,” Enzi said at a hearing this week. “Working together, we can deliver real solutions, real results and real progress if we find common ground and cooperate to get things done.”

He added: “Over the past six years, we have learned that wasteful Washington spending doesn’t solve problems, it only side-steps them. By spending responsibly and putting our fiscal books in order in a balanced and responsible way, we can restore the trust that we have broken with the American people.”

Enzi’s ranking member, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,  said this will likely spell a rehash of old ideas.

The Republican budget will look “a heck of a lot” like Ryan’s proposals, Sanders said at a press conference this week. A spokesman for Enzi declined to comment on which federal workforce provisions will be included in the senator’s plan.

The resurfacing of Ryan’s budget priorities would not come as a surprise to federal employees, with unions warning after the midterm election its return could squeeze the workforce at time when its responsibilities are growing.

Not everyone thought it was a good idea to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers. Mark Blyth, a professor of political economy at Brown University, told Enzi’s committee in prepared testimony at this week’s hearing that funding feds can help spark the economy:

Now consider a government employee whose income is generated by taxes, taxes that also bought the Apple Computer that she uses to process a [National Institutes of Health] grant that goes to a researcher at a state university. That researcher, funded by the federal government, goes on to invent a molecule that the pharmaceutical industry buys and turns into a major new therapy. Yet we tend to see this as ‘unproductive spending.’ Yet what is the difference between the two, especially when that same federal worker goes to the supermarket and shops with her government paycheck at the end of the week, and spends more than our heroic author? Does that not add to the economy either? Somehow we seem to think not.

Democrats pledged to inject their priorities into the plan by offering amendments. Former Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she hopes to build off of the two-year agreement she reached with Ryan in 2013. That measure partially rolled back sequestration cuts, though it also required new feds to pay more into their retirements.

“Hopefully it won’t take another government shutdown for Republicans to join us,” Murray warned.

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