Broad Opposition from the Hill to OPM Retirement Cuts

Republicans and Democrats in Congress sent a letter late last week to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan regarding the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) proposal to cut federal employee retirement benefits.

As summarized by Government Executive, the proposal would have a number of effects, including measures to “eliminate Federal Employees Retirement System supplements for employees who retire before age 62; increase employee contributions to FERS by 1 percentage point per year until they reach an overall contribution level of 7.25 percent, matching the government’s share; change the basis of defined benefit annuity payments from an employee’s highest three years of salary to his or her highest five years; and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments for FERS retirees—both current and future—and reduce Civil Service Retirement System COLAs by 0.5 percent.”

The White House is said to have “pushed for lawmakers to include the cuts in the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act,” which is scheduled to be marked up on Wednesday.

Although the plan is generally believed to align with the president’s workforce agenda, several Republicans were vocal in their opposition, including Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH), who asked Pon to rescind the proposal.

Turner wrote in a separate letter sent last week, “Despite their hard work and dedication, few groups have been asked to sacrifice more than federal employee. Since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, federal workers have foregone $182 billion in the form of pay and benefit cuts . . . With the United States’ growing economy and a tightening labor market, we cannot afford to make the federal government a less attractive place to work by diminishing the very benefits that help the government keep pace with jobs in the (often higher-paying) private sector.”

Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), whose district contains many federal employees, said he was receiving concerned questions about the proposal.

“In fact, I spoke today at a federal government luncheon, and a couple hands went up at the end for questions,” Beyer said. “The first question was, ‘Are you going to fight this new OPM suggestion?’ I went on for a minute about how I would, and then when I looked around, there were no more hands up. I asked, ‘What happened?’ And someone replied, ‘We all had the same question.’”

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