12/15/10: Today the Senate passed H.R. 4853, its version of the major tax agreement under consideration in Congress by 81 yeas to 19 nays. Under the Senate bill, federal employees covered by FERS will pay 2 percent less in social security payments, or 4.2 percent for 2011. Unfortunately, the Senate did not include federal employees covered under CSRS who do not pay into social security. NTEU has lobbied for a lower contribution on their part towards their pension, in the interests of equity. All federal employees are facing hardships in the current economy just like everyone else, and NTEU will continue to push for this. The House could consider the measure as early as tonight.
The tax agreement also extends the commuter transit benefit to $230, effective January 1 of next year. This important benefit was slated to drop to $120, and NTEU fought to continue the higher amount which is available to tens of thousands of federal employees and provides a much needed relief in their commuting costs. Chapter 293 has already reached out to the SEC to ensure that steps are taken to keep this full benefit in place in January, and we will keep you posted on our efforts.
During consideration of the bill, the Senate took up an amendment by Senator Tom Coburn to impose a three-year pay freeze on federal employees and reduce the workforce by 10 percent. NTEU strongly opposed the amendment, which was brought up on short notice. It failed to obtain the necessary 2/3 vote under Senate rules, and went down by 47 ayes to 52 nays (SA 4765/4764).
Attached is a copy of the letter NTEU sent to all senators on this. NTEU will remain vigilant to further attempts to diminish the important work of our federal employees and retirees in these closing days of Congress.