Today, the House 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 a 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 now.
On the other side of Congress, the Senate Budget Committee is currently debating their FY 2018 budget resolution. The draft Senate budget resolution does not contain any targeted cuts to federal employee benefit programs; however, the resolution has not yet been finalized, and changes could occur during the ongoing committee consideration. Further, now that the House has passed a budget requiring large cuts for federal employees, this issue will have to be addressed in the upcoming conference between the two chambers.
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).
We will keep you updated on further developments with the Senate’s consideration of their budget resolution, and how it impacts federal employees.