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Letter to the Editor: Week of June 3

Jun. 2, 2013 - 01:57PM   |  
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End the gridlock

It is not the fault of millions of hard-working career federal civil servants that roughly 117,000 employees were furloughed May 24 — employees from the Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Labor departments, and Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budgetand Internal Revenue Service [“5% of federal workforce furloughed Friday as agencies shut down,” posted May 24 at].

As part of last year’s budget negotiations, the threat of sequestering or an automatic 8 percent cut was supposed to bring all parties to the table. There would be a balanced budget and less need for increasing our debt limit to avoid sequestering. Nothing has happened to date but more gridlock. The sequester cut of $85 billion represents 2.3 percent of the budget. Millions of Americans have cut far more out of their family budgets and managed to survive. There are as many good managers in the government as in the private sector. If their superiors would give them the authority and flexibility to manage budgets, they could find savings without having to consider furloughing or laying off employees.

If federal civil servants should face furloughs, so too should White House employees, members of Congress and their staffs. Everyone should be allowed to use yearly earned annual leave against any payless furlough days. Remember they have already gone three years without any salary increase. Payless furlough days are essentially a salary cut.

Both the president and Congress need to work together to put our fiscal house in order and end future threats of both sequestering and furloughs. We need to return to the time when Congress held budget hearings for each department during the summer. A real balanced budget agency by agency was adopted during an open process. Members of Congress, federal employees, the public, watchdog groups and media were afforded sufficient time to understand the full contents before adoption. Full federal budgets were adopted on time, before the start of any new fiscal year on Oct. 1. The White House and Congress should be held accountable for their actions — or in this case, inactions — just as employees are at end-of-the-year personnel evaluations. The president, members of Congress and their respective employees should be docked one full day’s pay for each day the upcoming fiscal 2014 budget is not adopted on time. They need to perform this most basic requirement of their jobs, passing a budget on time. They need to perform their jobs, just as federal civil servants do on a daily basis.

Larry Penner

Great Neck, N.Y.

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