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Senate OKs bill allowing phased retirements, higher transit subsidy

Mar. 14, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Sen. Max Baucus, left, D-Mont., was one of the backers of the partial retirement initiative.
Sen. Max Baucus, left, D-Mont., was one of the backers of the partial retirement initiative. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Senate passed a transportation bill Wednesday that would allow federal employees to retire part-time and work part-time at the end of their careers.

The http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120308/BENEFITS02/203080305/1001">bill, S 1813, easily passed the Senate, 74-22. It will now head to the House, where House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pledged to bring it up for a vote.

The phased retirement amendment added to the bill represents a victory for the Obama administration, which proposed the idea last month as part of its fiscal 2013 budget proposal. The White House wants to allow the roughly 500,000 feds who are eligible for retirement to work part-time at the end of their careers, while receiving reduced pensions and continuing to accrue future retirement benefits.

Those employees would have to spend at least 20 percent of their time mentoring younger employees.

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers and nuclear materials couriers, who all face a mandatory retirement age, would be barred from taking a phased retirement.

The phased retirement amendment, sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., calls for using the $465 million it is expected to save to pay for roads and schools in rural areas.

But while federal employee unions are generally supportive of the idea of phased retirements, the American Federation of Government Employees opposed the Baucus amendment on grounds that it would use the estimated cost savings to pay for projects unrelated to federal employees.

The bill also would increase federal employees' mass transit subsidy to $240 per month, the same amount they now get for a monthly parking benefit. Last year, both subsidies were $230, but the mass transit benefit dropped to $125 per month when 2012 began.

The National Treasury Employees Union praised the passage of the increased transit subsidy.

"Improving transit benefits will prove incredibly important to all working people that use, or would like to use, public transportation, and are seeking critical relief for commuting costs," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

The Senate on Tuesday http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120313/BENEFITS01/203130306/1001">rejected another transportation bill amendment, from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that would have extended the pay freeze through the end of 2013.

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