Last week, Leaders of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) released their 2024 budget proposal which happens to contain several billion dollars in cuts for federal employee pay and benefits over the next decade.
Although the RSC proposals are not guaranteed to be passed by the Senate’s Democratic majority for a final spending bill next year, here are highlights of the proposals (as taken directly from the report).
Reforms to Employee Pay
The federal government’s current compensation framework mostly ignores the more efficient compensation approach used in the private sector. Federal government employees receive an average of 17 percent more in total compensation, when benefits are included, than their counterparts in the private sector. This is an additional $36.55 billion burden carried by American taxpayers.
The RSC Budget advocates the following compensation reforms:
- Reform federal worker paid leave policies to match the value of benefits paid by the private sector. This reform alone would save taxpayers more than $75 billion over 10 years.
- Automatic raises for federal employees should be eliminated. Pay increases for federal employees should be merit-based. This would save taxpayers $57 billion over 10 years.
- Congress should require that agencies only award bonuses when employees meet the standard for “exceeds fully successful.” Exceeds Fully Successful, according to the OPM guidance is “reserved for the individuals who are delivering measurable outcomes for the American public in a way that is measurably beyond the standard set for fully successful.”
- Congress should impose reasonable limits on the size of bonuses that can be awarded and the number of senior employees who can receive an award. More than $1 billion in bonuses for federal employees were paid by the taxpayers in 2016. This included $1.7 million in bonuses to IRS employees who were sanctioned by the agency for misconduct. The RSC Budget would require disclosure of all bonuses for federal employees and require reports to Congress on all large cash bonuses.
- Congress should repeal current law restrictions that prohibit basing bonus decisions on the relative performance of an employee compared to their peers.
- Congress should reform the federal pay scale to attract and reward high skilled, highly productive federal workers, and stop overpaying less qualified employees
Reform Federal Employee Pension Plans
This budget suggests a number of common-sense reforms to bring federal employee retirement costs in line with the private sector.
- This includes requiring new federal workers to be enrolled in the defined contribution TSP system rather than the defined benefit FERS pension system – which would give workers needed control over their retirement savings, ensure solvency for federal pensions and save taxpayers more than $235 billion over 10 years;
- computing a retiree’s benefit based on their highest five, and not three, years of earnings;
- increasing the share of employee contributions to FERS over time;
- reducing or eliminating the COLA for FERS and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS);
- eliminating the Special Retirement Supplement (SRS), which provides additional benefits for retirees younger than 62 but who had a long federal work history;
- and reforming the interest rate provided by the G Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to more accurately reflect the yield on a short-term T-bill rate
While the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 required new federal employees to contribute more towards their retirement, no changes were made for current federal employees. Hence this proposal would equalize the treatment for all federal workers.
Federal Employee Health Care
The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) provides health insurance coverage for federal employees and their dependents. The portion of these costs covered by the taxpayer does not change with the higher-priced coverage options. As such, federal employees have the incentive to choose the more expensive plans on the taxpayer’s dime.
The RSC Budget would transition to a premium support system for the FEHBP. The government would offer a standard federal contribution towards the purchase of health insurance and employees would be responsible for paying the rest. This option would encourage employees to purchase plans with the appropriate amount of coverage that fits their needs.
The government should also reduce its contributions to federal workers’ premiums to align with the private sector more closely. The RSC Budget would also eliminate FEHB retirement benefits for new hires. As noted by the Heritage Foundation, federal employees are able to participate in the FEHB plan even after retirement while having large parts of the cost subsidized by taxpayers. This is a benefit unavailable to virtually all private sector workers.
Reforms to the Removal Process for Federal Employees
It has become virtually impossible to remove most federal employees. A review by the GAO found that the dismissal process is estimated to take 170 to 370 days. According to the Heritage Foundation, of 2.1 million federal employees, only 11,046 (0.5 percent) were fired in 2017.
To read the full RSC 2024 budget proposal, click here.
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