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Budget update: The devil is always in the details

From Jennifer Warburton, Director of Legislative and Political Affairs:

As House and Senate budget conferees get to work on a federal budget deal, there are many rumors floating about town on what will be included in it.

With a deadline of January 15, 2014, discussions are well under way.

I believe it is fair to say at this point that the first rumor we can disallow is the notion that there will be a “grand bargain.” Once again, the refusal from the “right” to include any tax increases has been met with the refusal from the “left” to include any entitlement cuts without a fair middle ground.

Where does that leave the negotiations? The answer: A bare-bones continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded for an additional few months.

However, as the House and Senate continue discussions on what will be included in a budget package, the NALC is following along with a close eye. There may be an opportunity to include several positive components of a postal reform package into the budget conference, components the NALC would more than likely support.

But the buzz around Capitol Hill is that the budget might also include yet another hit to federal employees—significant employee increases to Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension contributions.

There is the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) approach, which would increase pension contributions 5.5 percent; the Obama budget proposal, which would increase pension contributions by 1.2 percent over three years; or the Senate approach, which is silence (on this issue).

Obviously, the NALC vehemently opposes any increases to pension contributions, as they are unjustified and equate to a pay cut. Congress needs to find another source for deficit reduction; federal employees cannot continue to balance the national budget on their own, especially when the federal workforce has already contributed $105 billion to debt reduction through pay freezes and higher retirement contributions for new hires (post-2012).

Stay tuned…the details will be unfolding in the next several weeks and, as always, the devil will be in the details.