The budget resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, touted by members of the Republican party as the beginnings of tax reform, places a $32 billion burden on the benefits of federal employees, according to National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) legislative director Jessica Klement.
“The stage is set for them to pay for the tax reform,” said Klement, explaining that the resolution places a $32 billion reconciliation requirement on the Oversight and Government Reform committee, which would most likely be taken out of the federal benefits managed by that committee.
According to the resolution text, the committee would be responsible for submitting changes in laws within its jurisdiction that would reduce the deficit by $32 billion for fiscal years 2018 through 2027. Klement said that the committee has few places to achieve those savings outside of targeting federal employee benefits.
“This budget resolution was touted as setting the stage for tax changes that will provide a break to hard-working, middle class Americans. In reality, it sets the stage for broken promises, lower paychecks, and less retirement and health security for hard-working, middle class public servants,” said NARFE President Richard G. Thissen. “The House passed a budget resolution that targets the hard-earned retirement and health benefits of federal and postal workers and retirees for at least $32 billion in cuts. The policies required to meet that target range from bad to worse — from imposing a ‘retirement tax’ on these workers by raising payroll contributions toward retirement without any benefit increase, to dramatically reducing the value of federal pensions for those nearing, or even in, retirement.”
Klement said that the budget resolution process has a long way to go before these cuts are finalized, and the Senate version of the resolution does not currently have the same federal benefit endangering provisions.
“For now, the Senate version is better for the community,” said Klement. “Their budget does not contain reconciliation instructions to the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.”
Federal employees may also benefit from proactive action by Senators to explicitly keep their benefits off the chopping block during budget cuts.
Though the Senate version does not include the same language as the House resolution, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has already filed two amendments to make sure the budget isn’t balanced through cuts focused on federal employees.
“For a number of years now, we’ve seen politicians repeatedly trying to target federal employees to shoulder more than their fair share of the burden in budget negotiations,” said Warner. “Over the last year especially, there have been an unprecedented number of unwarranted attacks launched on our federal workforce. There are federal workers all over the country who are rightfully concerned that the retirements they have planned for over years in public service may be in jeopardy, and dramatic retirement cuts will make it harder for federal agencies to recruit and retain the best and the brightest talent as much of the current workforce approaches retirement age.”
The first amendment would allow the chairman of the Committee on the Budget to revise the allocations of a committee related to preserving civilian service employee’s retirement security. The second prevents any provisions contained in any bill, resolution, amendment, motion, or conference that increases federal employees’ contribution to the federal retirement system from being scored with respect to the level of budget authority, outlays or revenues contained in such legislation.
“These cuts would break promises to employees and retirees who have based career and retirement planning on long-standing, promised benefit calculations,” said Thissen. “Federal retirement benefits were earned through years of hard work — they are not gifts to rescind.”
The Senate Budget committee passed the 2018 Budget Resolution on Thursday and the resolution is expected to be seen on the Senate floor by the end of October.
Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.