Many federal workers are bracing themselves for the next round of budget cuts, and have growing unease as to how those cuts may impact their benefits.
Federal employee benefits, which until recently have been viewed by many to be the best in the country, are feeling the brunt of budget cuts, a three-year pay freeze, and the effects of recent furloughs as a result of sequestration.
Two of the main federal benefits at risk for deep cuts under new budget proposals are the mass transit subsidy and the federal retirement plan. Proposed increases in retirement contributions, in addition to a reduction of federal pensions, is especially difficult for some federal employees to accept.
As a result of the changes to federal benefits, some congressional leaders argue that national security may be seriously damaged if valuable employees who work for federal agencies, to include the Department of Defense and Federal Bureau of Investigations, decide to leave federal service.
But there is no denying current budget deficits are driving the need to reduce costs in the federal workforce. According to a report published last month by the Congressional Budget Office, “Options for Reducing the Deficit 2014-2023, there is significant concern for the present federal debt, spending, and revenues.
The report addresses ever-increasing economic questions, and proposed solutions, as to the long-term outlook for the federal budget, healthcare programs, social security and other fiscal projections.
A recent Federal News Radio article noted proposed changes to federal retirement contributions. They outlined the following examples of pay and benefit savings:
Fed Pay & Benefits Savings
- Reduce the amount of federal pensions:
- Increase civilian employees’ retirement contributions:
- Use chained CPI to calculate Social Security cost-of-living adjustments:
- Cap military basic pay increases:
- Reduce annual pay increases for civilian employees:
- Reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition:
- Total: $308 billion
The Mass Transit subsidy benefit, which has seen reductions in recent years, was addressed last June in the Senate sponsored Commuter Benefits Equity Act of 2013.
This act ‘amends the Internal Revenue Code to equalize and increase to $245, with a cost-of-living adjustment after 2013, the tax exclusion for both transportation and parking fringe benefits.’
A similar House bill, ‘The Commuter Parity Act of 2013 – ‘amends the Internal Revenue Code … to allow a monthly exclusion amount of: (1) $220 for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle from home to work and any transit pass, (2) $220 for qualified parking, and (3) $35 for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’
Considering the severity of many proposed adjustments to federal benefits; and in light of the recent furloughs and compensation changes, there is speculation as to whether the proposed changes will cause some federal employees to consider leaving the government.
The fallout from the cuts to the federal transit benefit could have a ripple effect which would deeply impact public transportation and worsen traffic across the nation, especially in urban areas.
Federal employees aren’t the only ones worrying how budget proposals will affect their benefits. Veterans have also expressed concern with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes cuts to veterans’ pensions.