House Approves Budget Plan that Would Cut Federal Employee Benefits

By Erich Wagner

October 5, 2017

House lawmakers voted 219-206 Thursday to approve a resolution outlining the body’s fiscal 2018 budget priorities, which include a number of controversial cuts to federal employees’ retirement and benefits programs.

The House’s budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) asks 11 committees to come up with a total of $1.5 trillion in spending cuts through budget reconciliation, setting the stage for Republicans’ tax reform initiative. Within that, the legislation mandates that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees federal compensation and retirement programs, cut $32 billion over the next 10 years.

The resolution does not specify how the oversight committee should achieve savings, but the Trump administration last spring proposed a number of changes to federal retirement: a 6 percentage point increase in employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, phased in over six years; the elimination of cost of living adjustments for FERS employees and a 0.5 percent reduction in COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System enrollees; elimination of the FERS supplement for employees who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62; and basing the value of retirement benefits on the highest five years of employees’ earnings instead of the current highest three years.

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The House budget report also offers two new avenues for cutting federal workers’ compensation. It proposes reducing the rate of return for the Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund, which is made up of government securities, to make it more indicative of its low “investment risk profile.”

And lawmakers proposed changing how the government calculates its contribution to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums. Instead of basing the maximum calculation on the weighted average of the cost of all plans within FEHBP, the federal contribution would increase at the rate of inflation.

Jessica Klement, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, described the potential cuts to federal compensation as “hypocrisy.”

“This sets the stage for the federal community to pay for tax reform,” she said. “You’re paying for middle class tax cuts on the backs of middle class federal employees and retirees. It goes against the fundamental premise of this tax reform package.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the vice ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the budget resolution “ruinous,” and said that while his committee would be responsible for $32 billion in cuts, the cost of the overall budget to federal workers and retirees could reach as high as $163 billion over the next decade.

“Federal employee pay and benefits are not the cause of this country’s deficit and debt,” Connolly said. “The federal workforce has already contributed nearly $200 billion toward reducing the country’s deficits in the form of pay freezes, pay raises insufficient to keep pace with inflation, furloughs and increased retirement contributions. We should honor and revere the service of our federal workforce, not denigrate it with the attacks included in this ugly budget.”

National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon decried the proposal, which he said would unfairly punish government employees.

“On paper, it may look like a way to save money but in the real world, cutting the paychecks and retirements of federal employees, just to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, is a mean-spirited way to build a national budget,” Reardon said. “Since when is it acceptable to attack the very people who are providing hurricane relief, protecting clean air and water, conducting cutting-edge scientific research, enforcing the tax laws, securing the border, maintaining the national parks and guarding our financial system?”

On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee marked up its own fiscal 2018 budget proposal. Ahead of the meeting, it only provided reconciliation instructions to its Finance and Energy and Natural Resources committees. Once passed by the full Senate, lawmakers will need to iron out the differences between their budgets before committees can begin work to find savings.

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Man threatens Springfield post office: “You think Las Vegas was bad?”

crime
By Michael Cooper – Staff Writer

Posted: 7:23 a.m. Thursday, October 05, 2017

 

SPRINGFIELD —A man allegedly threatened a Springfield Post Office employee with “Las Vegas”-style violence because he was infuriated about not receiving his parents’ mail.

RELATED: Springfield man injured in Las Vegas shooting: 3 things to know

The man entered the post office at 150 North Limestone St. at about 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to a Springfield Police Division report. He asked a post office worker to pick up hold mail for his parents after returning from out of town.

The employee told the man the post office was unable to release the mail to him because he couldn’t provide identification with the correct address. The man then became “infuriated” and threatened the employee, the report said.

“You think Las Vegas was bad? Wait until I go postal on this (place)!” the man allegedly said.

MORE CRIME: Springfield man accused of stealing guns, leading police on chase

Employees were unable to calm the man down and he was removed from the post office, the report said.

As he was leaving, the man allegedly said: “You (people) will be upset when I come back!”

A supervisor checked the man’s ID, but gave it back to him as he was being sent out of the building.

Suspect information remains unknown, the report said.

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House Releases $4 Trillion Budget, Turns Medicare Into Voucher System, Huge Cuts

Republicans in the House released their budget plan on Tuesday, and it calls for tremendous cuts to food stamps and other social safety net programs, as well as turning Medicare into a voucher-like program, which would be a complete overhaul of the program.

Republican leaders say the $4 trillion budget plan will move the government from a $472 billion deficit in 2018 to a $9 billion budget surplus by 2027, but that’s assuming a 2.6% rate of economic growth, much larger than even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates which peg growth at 1.9%.

In order to get these numbers, they’re proposing slashing $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, and enormous cuts to federal employee pensions, food stamps and tax credits for the working poor.

If Medicare is turned into a voucher system, which Republicans have been trying to do for some time now, it will essentially force seniors to pay out-of-pocket for their own healthcare. While vouchers would pay for some of the costs, it would get rid of the single-payer system retirees have relied on to cover the majority of their healthcare costs.

Right now it’s unclear how much those vouchers or “premium support” as Speaker Ryan puts it, will be. That means if you receive a voucher and it’s not enough to cover the costs of private insurance, tough luck.

The Republican budget also calls for $622 billion in defense spending as well as another $511 billion in nondefense discretionary spending in 2018.

Since the budget isn’t finalized yet, it’s still possible for different levels of spending to be passed but conservatives say they want even deep cuts while moderates say it goes too far.

The budget plan also proposes to overhaul the U.S. tax code and is essential for Republicans to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

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