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James48843
12-09-2011, 02:56 PM
For what it is worth, my Union sent this out today as an update to what is going on legislatively this week as they consider payroll tax vs. federal employee pay raise, etc.




December 9, 2011


CONGRESS CONSIDERS ANTI-FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PROPOSALS
TO PAY FOR PAYROLL TAX CUT

For several weeks, members of Congress and the administration have been debating how to pay for an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut. Unfortunately, certain members of Congress have been pushing to pay for a one-year extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut by extending the pay freeze for federal workers, increasing pension contributions and reducing the federal civilian workforce through attrition.

While legislation containing some of these provisions was recently defeated in the Senate, federal employees are still at risk as the House is expected to vote on a similar bill early next week. In order to counteract such attacks, PASS members are urgently asked to contact their members of Congress and ask them to oppose any proposal that would negatively impact the federal workforce.

On November 30, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced the Temporary Tax Holiday and Government Reduction Act (S. 1931), which recommended paying for the payroll tax cut extension by extending the pay freeze for federal workers through 2015 and requiring the government only to replace one employee for every three who leave the federal workforce. PASS members and other federal employee unions quickly reacted to the damaging legislation and encouraged members of Congress to vote against the bill. On December 1, the Senate rejected the legislation by a vote of 20 to 78. Another Senate proposal (S. 1917), introduced by Rep. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), sought to pay for the payroll tax cut extension with a 3.25 percent tax on millionaires. The Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011 would have required individuals earning over a million dollars a year, or $500,000 a year if married and filing separately, to pay more in taxes and increased the fees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge mortgage lenders to guarantee repayment of mortgage loans. A December 1 Statement of Administration Policy from the White House showed strong support for the legislation; however, it failed to acquire the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. While that statement also opposed S. 1931, it did not specifically mention the pay freeze or staffing reduction as points of objection.

Although S. 1931 was soundly rejected, House Republicans today introduced their version of the payroll tax extension plan, which would finance the tax cut by extending the current federal employee pay freeze an additional year and increasing pension contributions by .5 percent over three years to equal a 1.5 percent increase by 2015. The legislation will extend the Social Security payroll tax cut and benefits for the long-term unemployed as well as prevent a threatened 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. The president has threatened to veto the legislation since it includes requirements for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, something Obama has labeled as “extraneous.” The legislation is expected to be considered on the House floor early next week. House minority leaders have voiced their concern regarding the anti-federal employee legislation in the Senate bill so there is no doubt that there will be fight ahead for passage of the House bill. “Federal employees have already stepped up to the plate and are helping to put our nation on sound fiscal footing, accepting a two-year pay freeze which reduces the benefits they would have received by $60 billion over 10 years,” said House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “It is not appropriate to once again call on federal employees to contribute while not asking everyone else to contribute their fair share.”

“The Republican payroll tax proposal represents another cynical ploy to single out federal employees for unfair treatment,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “The financial collapse and weak economy were not caused by the men and women who serve the federal government, and they should not be forced to shoulder the entire burden of the cost of recovery.” Federal employee unions have once again united to stress the negative impact of such legislation. “A key purpose of the payroll tax holiday is to stimulate the economy and encourage discretionary spending,” said the Federal-Postal Coalition, of which PASS is a member, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Freezing federal pay and cutting federal jobs to offset a payroll tax reduction only will undermine those aims and hinder our economic recovery.”

ACTION ITEM: Last week, PASS members helped to defeat the Senate legislation by responding to a call to action and contacting their members of Congress. Prior to next week’s vote on the House legislation, it is imperative that PASS members continue to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the legislation and any other proposals that would negatively impact federal employees. Please click on the link on the homepage of the PASS national website for more information and to send letters to your members of Congress today.



HOUSE PASSES FEDERAL WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REFORM

On November 29, the House passed legislation (H.R. 2465) to provide improved assistance to federal workers who are injured while on duty. The bipartisan Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act amends the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which has not been significantly updated for decades, by simplifying the claims process, modernizing benefits and making sure injured workers receive adequate compensation. The bill would allow physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to certify that someone has been disabled by a traumatic injury, which is expected to speed up the claims process. The claims process would also be streamlined for federal workers who are traumatically injured in armed combat zones, and injuries or illnesses caused by terrorist attacks would be covered as a war-risk hazard. The legislation provides support for funeral expenses up to $6,000 and includes a limit of $50,000 for employees who are facially disfigured due to injury. In addition, the bill allows the Department of Labor to check workers’ earnings with the Social Security Administration to prevent fraudulent claims. “Reform of the federal workers' compensation program is long overdue," said House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chair John Kline (R-Minn.), one of the bill’s sponsors. “I am grateful for the time and effort my colleagues on both sides of the aisle invested in advancing this responsible legislation. I hope this represents not only a first step toward modernizing the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, but also a renewed effort to work together in pursuit of meaningful solutions that better serve both workers and taxpayers.” “The federal workers’ compensation has not been significantly updated in almost 40 years," said Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), who also sponsored the bill. “As is too often the case with government programs left unchecked, waste and inefficiencies have crept into the system, leading to poor use of taxpayer resources and diminished support for those the program is intended to serve. This legislation will help ensure federal employees have access to a program that reflects the realities of today's economy and the best practices in medical care.”

A similar bill (S. 261) was introduced in the Senate in February by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). However, the Senate bill requires federal and postal employees on workers’ comp to retire when they turn 65 while the House bill does not include this requirement. This provision was also included the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 (S. 1789), which was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November.

It's going to be a rough couple of weeks (or months, or years) ahead.