Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, wrote to Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon May 9, 2018, to express “strong opposition” to a recent letter in which the director proposed sweeping cuts and increased contributions to federal employee retirement.
“Federal employees are the cornerstone of an effective and efficient federal government. Our country relies on these talented men and women to perform critical duties across all sectors of government, from national security and healthcare to economic expansion and infrastructure development,” Turner wrote.
Turner’s opposition as a Republican is notable, as Democrats have traditionally held a strong line against cutting federal employee benefits in order to balance the budget. Pon’s legislative proposals would likely require fairly unified Republican support to pass into actual legislation.
According to a news release on the letter of opposition, Turner’s district contains 30,000 federal employees that would likely be impacted by the proposed changes.
Turner took particular issue with aspects of OPM’s proposals that would impact current employees and retirees, such as increases in retirement contributions for current employees and the elimination of cost-of-living adjustments for all current and future retirees under the Federal Employee Retirement System.
“This breaks a promise to current federal employees and retirees. We should not arbitrarily make changes to policies that families have planned their lives around, particularly when it affects current retirees with limited ability to make up for unanticipated reductions in estimated income,” wrote Turner.
Pon justified the proposed changes as bringing the government more in line with private sector practices, though some have argued that prospective employees are attracted to the government over the private sector due to more generous retirement packages.
“In order to ‘recruit, retain and honor a world-class workforce to serve the American people’ as OPM seeks, the federal government must maintain a competitive benefits package befitting such a workforce. With the United States’ growing economy and a tightening labor market, we cannot afford to make the federal government a less attractive place to work by diminishing the very benefits that help the government keep pace with jobs in the (often higher-paying) private sector,” Turner wrote.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.