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Purported Trump budget doc zeroes out federal employee benefits

May 19, 2017 (Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The White House’s detailed budget is not set to be released until May 23, but a spreadsheet claiming to show the Trump administration’s entire fiscal plan leaked on May 18.

The spreadsheet, posted by nonprofit think tank Third Way, purports to show that the administration will completely cut funding to Office of Personnel Management’s Employees and Retired Employees Health Benefits Funds and Employees Life Insurance Fund for the fiscal budget.

“Yesterday, Third Way received a spreadsheet with numbers from the president’s FY2018 proposed federal discretionary budget,” the organization said on its website.

“If it were to be enacted, this budget would be a catastrophe for America. But the president’s budget is, thankfully, not the final say in Washington. Ultimately, it is up to Congress to bring more strategic thinking, thoughtfulness and humanity to our federal priorities."

The spreadsheet allegedly lists funding and Office of Management and Budget information in raw form. Budget information on programs the White House stated that it would cut in March’s skinny budget, like funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also have no funding in the spreadsheet document.

Sources in Washington couldn’t confirm the document’s accuracy. Walt Francis, an economist and expert on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, said that if the document were accurate, it would represent a significant shift to the FERS program.

“If they really mean all federal retirees, that’s obviously a $25 billion change,” he said.

Francis said he couldn’t be sure of the spreadsheet’s authenticity, noting that such deep cuts would be unthinkable. 

“Cutting half a million people out of health insurance with no substitute — because you are not eligible for Medicare until you are 65 — no, I don’t think they are purposing to do that. I just don’t believe it.”

The validity of the spreadsheet has yet to be confirmed by the White House, but federal employee groups are already on the attack over rumors that the budget will provide cuts to cost-of-living-adjustments for employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System.

The Washington Post reported on May 18 that the Trump budget would increase employee contributions 1 percent every year until it matched the federal government contribution rate, as well as eliminate COLAs for current and future FERS employees and cut the COLA rate for Civil Service Retirement System by 0.5 percent.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association immediately denounced the budget document.

“The rumored details of President Trump’s first full budget with respect to federal employees and retirees are nothing short of an egregious attack on federal service and seniors,” said NARFE National President Richard G. Thissen in a statement.

“The president purports to defend government annuities like Social Security and then proposes to eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for some and limit COLAs for those already retired and living on fixed incomes. It is beyond insulting. It is downright mean. Simultaneously promoting tax cuts and forcing a tax on just federal employees, through in an increase in retirement contributions, is the height of hypocrisy.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., also blasted the budget rumors reported in The Washington Post, saying the American people would suffer from the cuts, which will impact the services they have come to rely on.

"Cuts of this magnitude will make it impossible to recruit and retain the qualified workforce we need to meet our nation's challenges," he said in a statement.

Calls to the Office of Management and Budget were not returned by publication. 

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