Government affairs

House committee spending blueprint targets letter carriers

On July 19, the House Budget Committee released and adopted its Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution, and it also published a non-binding policy statement. Drawing inspiration from the White House budget, proposed in May, and from a 2010 presidential commission on deficit reduction, the two documents train their sights on postal and federal employee benefits and target the U.S. Postal Service for massive cuts.

“The House budget would unfairly slash the incomes and benefits of federal employees and needlessly expose the Postal Service to crippling service cuts,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “Active and retired letter carriers must make their voices heard to fight these horrible proposals.” The president also directed NALC members to read the "Budget Battle 2017" web page.

The Budget Committee’s documents are meant to serve as a blueprint for the House Appropriations Committee as it works to adopt 12 federal spending bills covering various parts of the federal government. If the budget resolution is adopted by the House—which is far from certain because of divisions with the Republican majority there—the 12 bills are then expected to be combined in some manner, and they could include instructions directing each of the 12 congressional oversight committees to cut spending by certain amounts in the programs they oversee. These oversight committees, such as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that governs the Postal Service and the health and pension plans of postal and federal employees, would then have to adopt bills to cut spending accordingly. Using reconciliation rules can expedite the budget process and help prevent a Senate filibuster.

The budget resolution now being debated in the House calls for the Oversight Committee to find $32 billion in savings over 10 years, and an accompanying policy statement makes suggestions for cuts that copy many of the harsh cuts proposed by President Donald Trump in May as well as others, including those proposed by the Simpson-Bowles presidential commission on deficit reduction in 2010.

One of the more troubling proposals introduced by the Budget Committee is one to fold the financially independent U.S. Postal Service, which is an “off-budget” agency, into the formal federal budget. Moving USPS to “on-budget” status could expose the agency to across-the-board spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011—better known as “sequestration.” Such a move might also tempt members of Congress to pay for their spending priorities using Postal Service cuts that would threaten the quality of service we provide—and perhaps even our jobs. (These kinds of threats prompted Congress in 1989 to move USPS off-budget.)

Budget Committee staffers have suggested that the Postal Service could be protected from such threats, but there would be no guarantees. Regardless, any change in the Postal Service's budget status would require the Oversight Committee to draft legislation calling for such a change, and NALC will of course monitor any such efforts.

Another troubling proposal being floated (actually, recycled) in the budget debate is to cut the rate of return on Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) retirement savings invested in the plan's government securities index fund (or G Fund). Such a cut would cost retirees and savers up to $32 billion in income over the next 10 years, not to mention destabilizing the TSP and the retirement security of its participants.

“Congress should not damage the G Fund, which millions of retirees rely on to preserve the value of their retirement nest-eggs,” Rolando said.

Visit Budget Battle 2017 to learn how you can help fight these and other harmful proposals.

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