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Feds push for end to sequester

Nov. 8, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Senator Murray And Reps. Ryan And Hollen Meet On B
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. are being urged to head off another round of sequester-related budget cuts early next year and avoid raising worker pension contributions. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Federal unions and professional groups are urging a House-Senate budget committee both to head off another round of sequester-related spending cuts early next year and avoid raising worker pension contributions.

Federal employees have already stepped up through the “ongoing three-year pay freeze,” Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said in a Friday letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “Your committee should therefore exempt federal employees from further sacrifices.”

As the respective chairmen of the House and Senate budget panels, Ryan and Murray also lead the joint conference committee assembled last month as part of the short-tem deal to end the partial government shutdown. That committee is supposed to report back by mid-December with a full-year spending plan for fiscal 2014. Many federal employee groups want its blueprint to include an alternative to the next series of sequester cuts set to take effect in January. The first round, which landed this past March, led to unpaid furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

“Enough is enough,” members of the Federal-Postal Coalition said in a letter earlier this week to Ryan and Murray. “The federal community has given its fair share already.”

The coalition’s 31 members include the American Federation of Government Employees, Federally Employed Women and the FAA Managers Association. Under last month’s agreement, lawmakers approved to a continuing resolution that lasts only until Jan. 15. Federal workers are now “extremely anxious” that they will be shut out of work again if lawmakers fail to agree on a funding extension past that date, the National Treasury Employees Union, another coalition member, said in a separate letter.

Also on the coalition’s watch list: Bids by Ryan and the Obama administration to hike workers’ share of pension contributions.

In its fiscal 2014 budget request, the White House seeks to raise that share by 1.2 percentage points over three years. For workers in the Federal Employees Retirement System, the result would be an increase from 0.8 percent of salary to 2.0 percent. Civil Service Retirement System employees would see their contributions increase from 7.0 percent to 8.2 percent of salary.

Ryan’s proposed budget, which has passed the House, echoes a recommendation by the Simpson-Bowles commission to have federal workers match their agencies’ contributions. For FERS participants, that would likely mean an increase in their share of contributions from 0.8 percent of salary to about 6.3 percent.

Spokesmen for Ryan and Murray did not return phone calls seeking comment; the joint committee is scheduled to meet next Wednesday.

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