Federal-Postal Coalition warns against pay, benefits cuts

Sunday - 9/18/2011, 7:56pm EDT

Emily Kopp, reporter, Federal News Radio

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The Federal-Postal Coalition sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to preserve government employees' pay and benefits in the deficit-reduction proposal the White House is expected to send to Congress Monday.

"The hardworking, dedicated Americans who make up the federal workforce had no part in creating the budget problems that you and the Congress are trying to address, and undermining their livelihoods should play no part in resolving these problems," members of the coalition wrote.

The coalition is made up of 21 unions and associations that represent 4.6 million federal workers and retirees.

The White House has been mum on the details of the President's plan, except to say that it will include measures to help the struggling Postal Service.

A joint House and Senate committee dubbed the "supercommittee" will receive the proposal as it studies ways to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit.

Federal employees' groups have also sent letters to committee members urging them to seek budget solutions elsewhere.

"Continuing to target federal employees creates a race to the bottom as morale is lowered and retention efforts suffer, ultimately leading to a loss of knowledge, expertise and skill of quality federal employees," Professional Managers Association president Thomas Burger said in a letter to committee co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).

PMA represents about 1,500 IRS managers and officials. In an interview with Federal News Radio, Burger said he was concerned about several budget-cutting proposals floating around Capitol Hill.

"They're all aimed at reducing the number of federal employees, their salaries or their benefits," he said. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a 3.8 percent decrease in IRS funding.

"It could easily result in the IRS not being able to deliver on their mission," said National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen Kelley. "It's going to put in serious jeopardy their ability to collect the revenue that's needed to help the country close the financial deficit that exists and also the money that funds the rest of the government."

But others doubt that any of the 12 fiscal 2012 appropriations bills will become law anytime soon. To postpone the threat of a government shutdown, House members have introduced a continuing resolution to fund the government through Nov. 18.

If the resolution becomes law, there would be a 1.5 percent decrease in funding levels across the board. "The consequences would be severe for us," said Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president Jon Adler. "It's a short-sighted move with perilous consequences because the bad guys won't take a time out while we figure out funding."

He said the secret service, which has a full schedule of protecting the President, presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries this fall, could be squeezed.

The resolution also contains $3.65 billion for disaster funding and a measure that would give the Postal Service more time to make a $5.5 billion payment to the Treasury for future retiree health costs. If those measures make it more challenging to pass the resolution Senior Executives Association lobbyist Jenny Mattingly said the government could still shut down on Oct. 1.

"It's something we should be watching," she said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved four more spending bills last week — the Defense, Commerce, Justice State, Legislative Branch and the General Government and Financial Services bills.

This week, one of the subcommittees will mark up the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies spending bill.

Overall, the committee has approved eight spending bills with the Interior and Environment, Labor-HHS, Transportation-HUD and State-Foreign Operations appropriations legislation still to work on.

The House Appropriations Committee has not yet passed the Transportation-HUD or the State-Foreign Operations bills. They do not have any scheduled markups this week.

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