Issa, Ryan look to FERS reform

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

Facing a GOP-controlled Senate and a record Republican majority in the House, congressional leaders have turned their attention to budget issues that would raise federal employees’ contributions toward retirement.

In a letter sent to the Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asked for an “examination of the budgetary impact of different options for reforming FERS [Federal Employee Retirement System].”

The CBO report, Issa and Ryan said, should look into “different options for reforming FERS, based on changes made in recent years to other large pension plans, both public and private. The report should include, but not limit itself to, adjusting the retirement contributions of federal employees, altering the formula for computing pension benefit payments, and expanding the defined contribution component while reducing the defined benefit component.”

The CBO letter is the latest initiative by Ryan to raise government workers’ contribution to FERS. Ryan’s House Republican spending plan would make federal employees pay 5.5 percent more of their salary toward retirement.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, expressed her concerns over the potential rising cost to feds in an email statement just after the midterm elections.

“I am concerned about the return of the Ryan budget, which would increase federal retirement contributions and cut the size of the federal workforce at a time when staffing needs are critical,” Kelley said. She also wrote that she disapproved of the proposals outlined in Issa and Ryan’s letter to CBO.

The federal government paid pension benefits of nearly $75 billion to civilian retirees and their survivors in 2013, according to the letter penned by Issa and Ryan.

In an interview on Federal Drive with Tom Temin, Kelley said NTEU would work on increasing budgets for federal agencies during the lame duck session and when the new Congress convenes in January 2015. In her statement against the Ryan budget, she said stagnant wages for federal workers have added to their financial pressure.

“In the past six years, private-sector wages have risen by 10.6 percent, while federal pay increases have been non-existent or miniscule,” Kelley wrote.

NTEU, she said, will also push for Congress to pass a new funding bill to keep the government operating past the current Dec. 11 deadline for the current continuing resolution.

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