Washington, D.C.— Today, the Senate took the right course of action in defeating, for the second time, an onerous proposal by Senate Republicans that would have funded a payroll tax holiday by punishing middle-class federal employees while failing to ask anything of our nation’s wealthiest, said the leader of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
“Rather than asking the most prosperous to make a single sacrifice, Senate Republicans instead were once again targeting the federal employees who work hard every day protecting our borders, safeguarding investors, monitoring our food and water supplies, and providing an endless list of services critical to their fellow Americans,” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said. “I applaud the Senate for rejecting this unjust, ill-advised proposal targeting federal employees for even further sacrifice.”
Defeated today by a vote of 22 to 76, the legislation, S. 1931 introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) with the support of Republican leadership, was already rejected by senators last week by a margin of 20 to 78.
The Heller proposal would have undermined the purpose of the payroll tax holiday—stimulating the economy—by freezing federal pay far into the future and cutting 200,000 jobs.
In advance of the Senate action, NTEU wrote to every member of the Senate and also signed a coalition letter urging them to reject the Republican proposal that would have unfairly targeted federal employees.
“Federal employees are already going into the second year of a congressionally-mandated pay freeze,” Kelley said. “Like other Americans, their health insurance costs have gone up. Their housing values have gone down, and they are facing all of the same challenges as other middle-class families in these difficult economic times, including spouses and grown children without jobs.”
Kelley noted that through the two-year pay freeze, federal employees will have made a contribution of $60 billion over 10 years to efforts to reduce the federal deficit.
The NTEU president also noted that nearly 600,000 mostly older federal workers are not themselves eligible for any payroll tax reduction because they pay into a federal retirement system that does not include Social Security. These employees instead pay seven percent of their salary toward their Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension and will see no benefit from the tax holiday, unless Congress steps up and rectifies this injustice by providing a tax credit to these employees equal to the payroll tax reduction, she said.
“It is outrageous to propose paying for a tax cut for middle-class workers by singling out a small group of working Americans—federal employees—while continuing to shield the wealthiest from bearing even a small sacrifice,” Kelley said. “In the wake of the Senate once again rejecting this misguided bill, hopefully we can move forward and beyond cynical, politically-motivated gestures.”
As the largest independent federal union, NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.