Senate amendment would extend pay freeze through 2013

Monday - 3/12/2012, 6:48am EDT

A stand-alone extension of the federal pay freeze was approved by the House last month. Now, a separate provision freezing federal pay for another year, could be gaining steam in the Senate.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced an amendment on March 8 to the Senate Highway Bill, S. 1813, that would extend the federal pay freeze through 2013.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Roberts has proposed the extension as part of a larger special deficit reduction trust fund that would also extend expired tax provisions and promote gas exploration on federal lands.

In February, the House approved a bill to extend the pay freeze, which is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, to the end of 2013. The pay freeze extension proposed by Roberts applies to all federal employees, including members of Congress and legislative branch employees. The pay freeze is now in its second year.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) (AP)

"I believe this amendment is an important first step in growing our economy," Roberts said in a press release. "It contains many, but not all, of the critical tax relief provisions that should be extended to protect families and businesses from higher taxes. Until we reform the tax code, Congress should extend expired tax provisions."

The chief aims of Roberts' amendment include:

  • Extending tax deductions for college tuition.

  • Promoting offshore energy development, by allowing gas exploration on federal lands and supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  • Extending energy tax incentives, such as tax credits for energy-efficient homes and alternative fuel vehicles.

  • Extending expired business-related tax credits and incentives.

As an offset, the amendment includes a special deficit reduction trust fund consisting of the pay freeze extension, savings from energy production incentives and a refundable child tax provision.

"In summary, this amendment does not add to the deficit," Roberts said. "It contains robust energy production incentives and restores expired individual and business tax relief provisions. Most of all, it promotes economic growth and provides much needed consistency as these tax extenders simply do not exist at this present time, and only for this year, everybody knows, 2013, we have the obligation and responsibility to really go into and dig into a tax reform plan that will certainly serve our nation in much better shape in regards to tax policy."

AFGE decries lack of 'shared sacrifice'

The American Federation of Government Employees wrote to lawmakers Monday, urging them to oppose the Roberts amendment.

In the letter, Beth Moten, AFGE's legislative and political director, said the current two-year pay freeze has garnered $60 billion over 10 years in deficit reduction. The new proposal would bring the number that federal employees have contributed to $105 billion.

"It's not 'shared sacrifice' if no one else is sharing in the pain," Moten said.

She also said the pay freeze extension would particularly affect the middle ranks of the federal workforce. About 60 percent of the workforce is paid the equivalent of GS-9 — with a starting salary of $47,448 — or below, the letter stated.

A GS-5, for example, with an annual base salary of $31,315, would lose a total of $3,842 over three years if the freeze is extended to the end of 2013. For the same period, a GS-9 with an annual base salary of $47,448 would lose $5,822.


Watch a video of Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kan.) remarks on Amendment 1826 to the Highway Bill, S. 1813.

(Jack Moore contributed to this report).

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