Your Retirement: Congress Debates Future of Federal Pension Benefits at House Hearing
At a House Federal Workforce Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Chairman Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Ranking Member Stephen Lynch (D-MA) were joined by a panel of experts to discuss the state of federal employee retirement benefits. Though no strong conclusions were reached, the debate focused sharply on federal pensions, and whether they should be cut back.
The hearing began with an opening statement from Ross, who argued that federal benefits are excessive must align more closely with private sector benefits. According to Ross, federal compensation far outpaces private sector rates, when in reality federal employees make on average 26% less than their private sector counterparts doing the same jobs.
“The CSRS and FERS pensions are the bedrock of the retirement security for millions of current and former federal employees,” said NFFE National President Bill Dougan in a statement following the hearing. “These modest retirement benefits provide a small but dependable income for retirees who dedicated years – often decades – of their lives to national service. Misleading statements suggesting federal retirement benefits are excessive are not just unfair, they are simply untrue.”
During his opening statement, Lynch saw things much differently than his House colleague. He argued that Ross’ idea of improving federal employees’ retirement is to eliminate their pension benefit all together. Citing a recent attempt by House Republicans to increase the amount federal employees contribute to their pensions while simultaneously decreasing their pension benefits, Congressman Lynch stated it was unfair for federal retirement to be consistently targeted for cuts since the benefit is so modest to begin with.
“The bottom line is that unfair attacks on federal retirement benefits are solutions in search of a problem,” said Dougan. “These criticisms have little basis in fact and are motivated more by ideological politics than ideal policy.”
“Today the federal retirement system is a model of efficiency, reliability, and stability for taxpayers and the retirees who served them. If we are to continue to deliver a high level of service to the American people, we must have a retirement system that rewards years of dedicated service. We have that today, and will do all we can to preserve it for tomorrow.”
Also testifying before the committee Wednesday were OPM Chief Operating Officer Charles Grimes, American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar Dr. Andrew Biggs, National Taxpayers Union Executive Vice President Pete Sepp, and David B. Snell on behalf of the Federal-Postal Coalition.