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House's federal retirement contribution measure draws heavy flak

The passage of a House bill that includes a measure to compel federal employees to contribute an additional 5 percent of salary to retirement has drawn a strong reaction from federal employee groups.

The passage of a House bill that includes a measure to compel federal employees to contribute an additional 5 percent of salary to retirement has drawn a strong reaction from federal employee groups.

They say that the measure contained in the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act (H.R. 5652) crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) amounts to little more than a tax on federal employees.

“If the House majority is opposed to taxing America’s middle class, they have a funny way of showing it,” National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association President Joseph Beaudoin said in a statement after the vote.

The bill would phase in the 5 percent hike in contributions over five years, starting in 2013.

The bill also would require new employees who are hired after 2012 and have fewer than five years of previous federal service to immediately begin paying 5.8 percent of salary toward retirement. Additionally, the bill would end the annuity supplement for employees hired after 2012 who retire before they are eligible for Social Security.

The retirement measures are only one part of the bill. The main thrust of the reconciliation legislation is to save the Defense Department from automatic “sequestration” cuts that would kick in at the beginning of next year — cuts the bill’s advocates say would “hollow out” the military. But opponents of the bill take issue with the means that are being used to accomplish this “sequester replacement.” Those means also include cutbacks of and changes to many social programs such as healthcare and food stamps.

“It is unconscionable that nearly 30 percent of these savings is coming out of the pockets of federal workers, who individually have already sacrificed thousands of dollars to get our country’s finances back on track,” Beaudoin stated.

“Although the immediate burden of this bill is on the federal worker, in the end it could have dire consequences for our entire country,” Beaudoin continued. “This barrage of anti-federal workforce policies is making it more difficult to attract and retain the best workers. As a result, America could be left with a second-rate federal workforce tasked with developing defense systems for our soldiers, detecting diseases in the food we eat and enabling trade with the rest of the world.

Beaudoin said his organization will be “working with our allies in the Senate to defeat this latest affront to federal workers.”

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers President Gregory Junemann minced no words in a letter to House members on the day they took up the bill, noting that “the entire reconciliation package illustrates exactly why the approval rating of Congress is at historic lows.”

“While this new attack on civil servants may pander to blind ideologues who hate government, it will ultimately harm the American public,” Junemann wrote to the lawmakers. “In fact, in the future when the American public is wondering whatever happened to their top-of-the-line government services and the dedicated public servants who provided them, they will see this bill as the culprit.”

“This bill is simply not in the interest of our nation,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said in a statement after the vote. “I look forward to moving beyond this empty symbol of election-year partisan legislation and focusing on real solutions.”

The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is less likely to approve the bill.

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