In a round of bad news for federal employees, the U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) by a vote of 219-206 that directs the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to produce at least $32 billion in cuts. This committee primarily has jurisdiction over federal employee benefit programs, which is where these cuts would need to come from, translating into federal employee benefit reductions.
While separate legislation would be required to make actual changes to these benefit programs, the budget recommends to lawmakers to substantially increase FERS employee contributions (an approximate 6% to 7% reduction in take-home pay), to eliminate the FERS supplement, and to transition solely to the Thrift Savings Program (TSP), eliminating the FERS pension entirely. NTEU sent this letter to the Hill before the vote, urging a no vote on the budget resolution.
The budget also contains additional policy proposals regarding proposed reductions in spending, including proposed changes and cuts for the federal workforce. Referred to as “illustrative policy options,” these proposals merely serve as recommended changes, and do not on their own amend law. Items suggested in the report include adjusting the TSP’s G Fund rate in a way that would seriously reduce the rate of return of the Fund, reducing the number of federal employees, and instituting a hiring restriction of one new employee for every three that depart.
Also, the report proposes that the premiums paid for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program insurance benefits should be based on the number of years of federal service, and recommends significantly lowering the government’s share of premiums. All of these devastating policy provisions have been introduced in previous Republican budgets. NTEU has successfully fought these provisions before, and we will continue to fight against them.
Today, the Senate Budget Committee considered and advanced its Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution. Unlike the House Budget Resolution, H. Con. Res. 71, which passed the House of Representatives earlier today by a vote of 219-206, the Senate Budget Committee’s budget resolution does not contain instructions to cut federal employee benefit programs.
The Senate will be in recess the week of October 9, but is expected to consider its Budget Resolution when the Senate returns and is in session the week of October 16. Upon the expected Senate passage, House and Senate negotiators will then meet to produce a conference agreement.
Although there were no amendments impacting federal employee benefits considered at today’s Senate Budget Committee markup, it is possible that such amendments could be offered and pass during Senate floor consideration or that the Conference Committee accepts language cutting federal employee benefit programs from the House Budget Resolution.
NTEU has worked with Senate allies to keep federal employee benefit programs intact, and we are pleased to report that our efforts have succeeded so far. Rest assured that we will continue our fight to protect your livelihoods.
Both chambers have increased the pace of their consideration of budget resolutions which would be used to advance a tax reform bill under reconciliation rules. Under reconciliation, only a majority of votes are required in the Senate, a lower threshold for passage (51 versus 60).
If you're upset about these awful cuts, that make your already lower-than-market-rate salary even lower, please visit the Take Action page and send your Congress person and Senators a letter with your perspective.