12/19/11: The Senate on Saturday followed the House in approving an omnibus spending bill to keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year. In a series of votes the House and Senate also passed a short-term continuing resolution that will keep the government operating while the full year funding bill is prepared for presidential signature. The president is expected to sign the legislation.
The fact that a government shutdown has been avoided is clearly good news for federal employees, agencies and the country. However, many agencies are being shortchanged in the final funding bill forcing them to try and achieve their missions and provide services with inadequate resources. NTEU will continue its efforts to bring appropriations up to adequate levels in the next budget cycle.
The news for the SEC is better. The final version of the omnibus budget included approximately $1.32 billion for the SEC. This is a substantial increase over the approximately $1.11 billion budgeted for FY 2011, and relatively close to the approximately $1.4 billion originally requested by the SEC. NTEU's Legislative Department worked hard on Capitol Hill to help in obtaining this increase in the SEC's budget.
In discussions with the Union in recent weeks, SEC senior management has linked passage of a budget that is over the FY 2011 level to its willingness to provide merit pay awards to employees for the rating period that ended on September 30, 2011. Management adopted a similar strategy last year, which resulted in a substantial delay in the pay raise that lasted from January 2011 to this fall. The Union has urged the agency not to engage in pay raise delays again this year. We will continue to push for the agency to provide the raise in a timely fashion, like other federal financial regulatory agencies.
The Senate also on Saturday passed a two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday that does not offset its cost with further cuts to federal employee pay and benefits. The House may return next week to consider the measure. On Sunday, however, it became clear that some in the House do not support the measure. NTEU will continue to make the case to representatives that federal employees have already contributed to deficit reduction and should not be targeted for further cuts.