Workforce

House Dems push back on Trump's pension cuts for feds

bills with tight belt

In a letter to House leaders, Democratic lawmakers rebuked the White House for proposed cuts to the federal workforce in the fiscal year 2018 budget request.

In a June 14 letter addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), more than 100 House Democrats expressed their "strong opposition to President Trump’s assault on the salaries and pensions" of federal employees, and urged House leadership to reject the proposals that would "undermine and demoralize our federal workforce."

"No other group of Americans [has] been asked to sacrifice more for the sake of deficit reduction," the legislators wrote, adding that federal employees have "already paid dearly" through past congressional action to increase employee contribution to retirement programs, as well as the three-year pay freeze from 2011 through 2013 and the 2013 government shutdown.

"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of the federal workforce, and we should not try," they wrote. "Across the nation, federal employees perform a vital service to the American public every day."

The lawmakers argued that such steep cuts will negatively impact the efficacy of the workforce at carrying out services to the citizenry. "Enacting these proposals would harm the nation as a whole," they wrote. "Across the nation, federal employees perform a vital service to the American public every day."

President Donald Trump's proposal identifies almost $150 billion in savings over 10 years by slashing workforce benefits. By targeting retirement benefits, the proposal outlines $6.5 billion in savings for fiscal year 2018 alone.

"The president's proposal would affect all current retirees and employees, rather than making changes on a prospective basis. This breaks a promise to current federal employees and retirees," the letter said. "We should not alter policies that families have planned their lives around, particularly when it affects current retirees."

The White House’s budget also proposes changing the way pensions are calculated, by averaging an employee's five highest salary years, as opposed the current practice of averaging the three highest.

In addition to these cuts, the lawmakers took issue with the budget's elimination of "the supplement for employees who retire before they can start collecting Social Security at age 62."

"These enhanced benefits largely support our federal law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers who are forced to retire early due to the physically demanding nature of the job," they wrote.

The lawmakers also expressed concerns about the proposal’s adverse effect on both the retention of skilled employees and the government's ability to attract new workers.

"Taking their pensions away and gutting their pay would have the effect of pushing those skilled people out of the civil service and impairing the recruitment of new talent," they wrote.

The Democrats' efforts may face an uphill battle. The Republican Party's 2016 platform called for checks on federal hiring and workforce activities, and Ryan has a record of supporting legislation that would cut federal employees' pay.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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