Deal means agencies won’t see immediate cuts, but future is unclear

If the House repeats the Senate’s action Tuesday morning to avert a “fiscal cliff” of higher  taxes and across-the-board federal budget cuts, federal agencies will avoid immediate reductions. But the future remains uncertain for federal employees because the legislation, passed well before dawn, delays the budget reductions known as sequestration for only two months.

The House still must act on the legislation. Also on the House agenda is a bill that would extend the freeze on basic federal pay rates through the end of 2013.

In a statement Tuesday, J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, said that “AFGE members are very concerned about the use of additional agency funding cuts in order to pay for the delay of the sequester.”

“How agencies will achieve these amounts is not clear in the language of the bill. Before they look any further at unpaid furloughs or other cuts to critical agency programs, OMB should sharply reduce the amount taxpayers provide to federal contractors for excessive salaries for their top executives,” Cox said.

“While the operations of government will not immediately change, federal agencies continue to face reductions in resources for the remainder of fiscal 2013,” said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “These cuts will impact federal agencies and their ability to provide services to the American public including food and drug safety, border security, nuclear regulation, and much more. The Internal Revenue Service will be in a particularly tough position just as the 2013 filing season gets underway. The IRS has already seen severe budget cuts that have reduced its personnel and stretch its ability to help taxpayers comply with an increasingly complex tax code.”

Federal employees have been under a freeze on basic pay rates for two years and are expecting a 0.5 percent pay raise after a temporary budget measure expires in March. Separate pieces of legislation, introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), would continue the pay freeze for members of Congress through fiscal year 2014 and for rank-and-file employees through the end of calendar 2013, according to his spokesman.

Beth Moten, the legislative and political director of the American Federation of Government Employees, sent a letter to the House that said the Fitzpatrick bill “is a continuation of the unfair attacks made on federal employees.” She reminded House members that budget savings are already costing federal workers $103 billion over 10 years through the pay freeze and increased pension contributions for many new employees. “The loyal, patriotic, working-class and middle-class Americans who make up the civilian federal workforce have done their part to address the budget deficit,” Moten added. “I strongly urge you to oppose the Fitzpatrick legislation…”



Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.



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