LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – While the share of nation’s workers the federal government employed in 2017, equaled its lowest level ever recorded, new Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the level is too low for government to perform basic functions. And with alarms ringing over the rising costs in Pekin, Illinois could less us to fewer firefighters serving the community. With two firefighters down in the department due to retirements of last year, the union’s president, Tom Veatch explains, “It’s a safety concern. You know, not only for our taxpayers but our members too. We’re always here. We do our job 100 percent all the time. And we will never stop doing our job, no matter what.” However, the city has not filled those 2 positions and leaders are pointing at rising costs as they are looking towards a budget plan for the next fiscal year. The Local Records Office reviews how the 2019 budget proposal will impact federal jobs; employees’ benefits and the cost of living adjustments (COLA) will both a take a major hit.
“It might sound better to say ‘cuts’. We’re maintaining the employment levels in the proposed budget,” proposed Carson.
Carson described that the city faces 60 million in pension liabilities for the fire and police retirees and is the reason staffing levels in the proposed budget are under consideration.
“They offer great service to our residents. They’re going to continue to do a great job. I have confidence in their abilities. We’re not short staffing them,” expressed Carson.
Though, CBP has documented how, due to lack of personnel, basic governmental functions –ie. administrating the nation’s Social Security and even tax systems –are being performed inadequately.
Recently, Sens. Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently announced they are closing a two-year budget deal, which lifts budget caps and would require appropriations committees to develop detailed plans within six weeks.
The 2019 Budget proposes a pay freeze; federal employees will take major compensation cuts
With the 2019 presidential budget in place to include a pay freeze for federal employees; with the administration’s intention to rely on a “pay for performance” basis rather than a standard pay increase on a schedule, the American Federation of Government Employees national president J. David Cox Sr. explains that “by stripping employees of their due process rights and firing those who reject his politics, President Trump is opening the door for rampant corruption, discrimination, and worker intimidation.”
With the 2019 budget proposal relying on employee compensation cuts and changes to reduction to the deficit by more than $70 billion by 2028, by mostly coming from reducing the government’s contributions to the retirement and health programs, and eliminating some programs, such as special retirement supplements and the Federal Employee Retirement System cost of living adjustments, the 2019 budget proposal estimates adjustments to will reduce the U.S. deficit by $192 million by 2021 and achieve a total reduction near $2.8 billion by 2028.
Similarly, this 2019 budget proposal estimates these changes to the federal retirement benefits will also reduce the deficit by nearly $2.6 billion in 2019 and adds up of more than $68 billion in reductions by 2028. And members will receive a 2.5% raise, according to the 2019 document.
Though the president is proposing a pay freeze for civilian employees next year, the Congress has multiple opportunities to suggest and pass laws otherwise.
New changes to the federal employee retirement benefits
-Increasing the employee contributions to retirement by 1% per year until it reaches 50% in the Federal Employment System (FERS) –phased out over a period of several years.
-Replacing the current high three average salary to calculate the retirement annuities with the five-year average salary baseline.
-Eliminating FERS annuity supplement for eligible employees retiring 2018 and beyond.
-Eliminating the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for current and future FERS employees
-Eliminating the FERS cost of living adjustments and reducing civil service costs (CSRS) and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) by 0.5%
With the White House plans to indicate plans to propose a seismic shift in federal retirement systems in the future, as it could remove defined benefit pensions altogether, officials wrote that “the TSP is a particularly attractive benefit to young, mobile workers not intended to make a career of federal service.” And that “the budget, therefore, funds a study to explore the potential benefits, including the recruitment benefit, of creating a defined-contribution only annuity benefit for new federal workers, and those desiring to transfer out of the existing hybrid system.”
As the proposal would change other federal employee benefits and do away with the current leave system, which offers time off for regular leave, sick days and vacation, in favor of Paid Time Off would effectively reduce the number of leave workers receives each year.
Healthcare –Proposed changes to Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)
The trump administration is recommending changes to the formula the currently directs towards the government’s contribution rate for the participants in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).
With the budget contribution rate on an FEHB plan’s score from a performance assessment, the OPM rates all FEHBP carriers on all 19 health outcomes, quality, and efficiency standards.
The formula set under law determines a share the government and enrollee pay towards FEHBP premiums each year. The government pays 75% of participants’ premium up to a certain cap. The cap equals to 72% of the weighted average of the previous years’ premiums.
The Trump administration wants to alter the formula slightly, so the government would contribute more towards the employee’s health care depending on how well the specific FEHB plan performs under the OPM’s standards.
The Office of Management and Budget projects the government will contribute a range of 65-75%.
“Under the current structure, enrollees have few incentives to choose less expensive, higher value plans,” the budget cites. “This proposal would incentivize enrollees to select high-performing, high-value plans by making them more affordable. The proposal would also provide carriers with greater incentive to compete on price and quality, help driving down overall program costs.”
And according to the budget, this change to FEHB premium contributions would save over $2.7 billion in the next decade.
Annual leave –impacts paid time off and sick days
The 2019 proposal also suggests combining all leave into one “paid time off category.”
“This would reduce total leave days while adding a short-term disability insurance policy to protect employees who experience a serious medical situation,” according to the 2019 request.
And currently, the federal employees receive 10 paid holidays, 13 sick days and 13-to-26 vacation days, depending on the tenure.
- David Cox, the national president of AFGE, had told reporters that Trump’s budget is a significant threat to the federal employees’ livelihood, particularly following years of austerity during the Great Recession.
“Federal workers already make 5 percent less in inflation-adjusted terms than they did at the beginning of the decade,” Cox said. “If we don’t stop the pay freeze for 2019, they will have given up $246 billion in wages and benefits since 2011. No other group has lost more to deficit reduction than the federal workforce.”
And Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union described the budget in a statement as a “full-scale assault” on our federal civil service.
“This should alarm every member of Congress and all Americans,” Reardon said. “Weakening our civil service system and attacking the pay and benefits of federal workers will backfire and leave our country unable to tackle the complex issues we are facing.”