Sandy relief proposals 'unfairly target' feds, union says

Monday - 1/14/2013, 4:26pm EST

Updated Jan. 15, 4:30 p.m.: The House voted down the amendment proposed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) requiring 1.6 percent in across-the-board spending cuts as an offset for the relief package. On Monday, the House Rules Committee rejected Mulvaney's other proposed amendment that would have rescinded the mass-transit subsidy for federal employees. Click to read story

A series of cost-savings amendments to the Superstorm Sandy aid bill the House will consider this week has drawn the ire of a federal-employee union that says the proposals "unfairly target" government workers.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) has proposed defraying some of the costs of the $50 billion recovery package by rescinding a mass-transit tax benefit for federal employees and by ordering more across-the-board agency budget cuts.

Mulvaney said his amendments, which he called "common-sense ideas" would help offset the cost of providing relief for the storm-ravaged areas.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)

"I know how important the supplemental relief is to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, but I believe we can provide that relief while finding ways to pay for it, rather than adding to the nation's ballooning deficit," he said in a statement.

Mulvaney's amendment would slice 1.63 percent from agencies' 2013 budgets.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Mulvaney's proposed budget cuts — on top of potential across-the-board sequestration cuts later this year — would hit agencies particularly hard.

The amendments "would further jeopardize the ability of federal agencies to provide critical services for the American public and unfairly target federal employees who have already sacrificed so much in recent years," Kelley said in a letter to lawmakers urging a "no" vote on the proposals.

NTEU represents 150,000 federal employees across 31 agencies.

Mulvaney's other amendment would specifically exempt federal employees from a mass-transit subsidy, which allows commuters (including non-federal employees) to deduct as many as $240 a month for public transportation. The subsidy was only recently reinstated by Congress as part of the deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

"Federal employees have not been immune to the economic downturn and eliminating their transit benefit would only serve to worsen their economic situation, and undermine the goal of the benefit, to encourage more mass transit participation," Kelley said.

The House Rules Committee is set to consider the Sandy package Monday evening. The full House is expected to take it up later this week.

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