Senate Budget Chairman Introduces Budget Proposal Including Deep Federal Workforce Cuts
In an unexpected move Tuesday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) reintroduced the Simpson-Bowles Plan as his committee’s budget resolution, rather than creating a new budget framework, as expected. Though the chairman himself has admitted the proposal is dead on arrival, he is reported to have reintroduced it to make a statement about extreme partisan polarization in Washington.
In a recent interview with Politico, Sen. Conrad decried the pushback he received from members of both parties during tenuous negotiations on his own budget proposals. When it became clear that the differences of opinion were simply too vast to bridge in one piece of legislation, the chairman decided it was time to throw in the towel. Rather than crafting a budget of his own, he put forward the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles Plan.
The Simpson-Bowles Plan, named for the co-chairmen of President Obama’s now-defunct Fiscal Commission, contains a slew of anti-federal employee measures affecting everything from pay, to retirement benefits, and health insurance. To name just a few, the sweeping deficit reduction measure would freeze pay for another three years, cut 200,000 federal jobs, turn FEHB into a voucher program, and octuple the amount federal workers contribute toward their pensions each paycheck. Though Conrad’s proposal was more of a statement on partisan gridlock than an actual legislative proposal, the precedent is disturbing nonetheless.
“Though we appreciate the Chairman’s frustration with partisan gridlock in Washington, that is no excuse to ask for more from federal employees who have already sacrificed immensely to reduce the debt,” said NFFE National President William R. Dougan. “The idea of the President Fiscal Commission was to find a way to find a bipartisan strategy for reducing the debt through shared sacrifice. Shared sacrifice is not what federal employees have experienced these past two years, nor would they see it from Simpson-Bowles.”
As President Dougan stated, federal employees have spent the past several years serving as the Congressional piggy bank for all sorts of measures. Federal workers have already sacrificed $60 billion in forgone income due to the two-year pay freeze; new federal hires have been forced to pay four times the amount they must pay toward their pension each paycheck without a corresponding increase in benefits; they have seen their agencies budgets dwindle to the point where fewer workers are doing more with less than ever before.
To entertain the idea that the federal workforce cuts in the Simpson-Bowles plan are responsible cuts is a dangerous precedent. Federal workers have sacrificed enough. The time has come for others to pay their fair share.