Washington, D.C. – Congress and the administration should swiftly approve the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package so federal agencies can function without interruption for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year, said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
“Avoiding another disruptive and costly government shutdown and allowing federal agencies to keep their doors open is the least we can do for the American taxpayers,” Reardon said. “We have been extremely critical of the lurch from one temporary spending bill to another and the constant brinksmanship that alarms federal employees and the public at large, so it is a relief that Congress appears close to resolving these issues for at least the next six months.”
The spending deal, reached after lengthy bipartisan negotiations, reflects the earlier budget agreement to lift the spending caps on defense and non-defense, non-security agencies and increase investments in important federal programs.
It includes several provisions that directly benefit NTEU-represented agencies and the taxpayers they serve, and excludes some misguided proposals that would have been detrimental to federal employees around the country.
For the Internal Revenue Service, Congress is providing the agency with $11.4 billion for the 2018 fiscal year, a 1.7 percent increase from 2017. It also includes $320 million to implement the new tax law, which can be used for taxpayer services, enforcement or operations support. Reardon had testified against the original budget proposal that provided no new funds to carry out the largest overhaul to the tax code in 30 years.
“The IRS spending levels are a step in the right direction for an agency that has lost $900 million and nearly 22,000 full-time employees in the last eight years,” Reardon said. “This modest increase for the IRS will allow the agency to be more responsive to taxpayers and employers who need help from the professional public servants who answer the phones and staff the Taxpayer Assistance Centers. NTEU will continue to fight for adequate IRS funding in 2019.”
NTEU for years has been alerting Congress about the severe staffing shortages at the ports of entry and the omnibus provides $7.6 million to hire more than 300 new Customs and Border Protection Officers.
“The men and women who work at the 328 air, land and sea ports around the country are grateful to see that Congress has responded to their pleas for help by putting a dent in the staffing shortage,” Reardon said. “Many of them have been forced to work back-to-back 16-hour shifts or take temporary assignments far from home, and this hiring surge will provide some relief for CBP employees as well as the travelers and cargo shippers they see every day.”
The omnibus provides CBP with $14 billion, a nearly 15 percent increase over fiscal year 2017 enacted spending.
NTEU still supports stand-alone legislation from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) that would authorize hiring 500 new CBPOs annually until the shortage is alleviated.
“Some of the best news for federal employees is what is not in the omnibus,” Reardon said. “No cuts in compensation, and no rolling back of due process that ensures frontline employees aren’t subject to arbitrary and unfair retaliation and favoritism. The nation’s merit-based civil service is the world’s premiere public workforce and in this healthy economy, we will encourage Congress to take the next step and provide a 3 percent pay increase for federal employees in 2019.”
Other NTEU-represented agencies avoided the egregious budget cuts proposed by the administration:
- The Environmental Protection Agency is level funded at $8.1 billion;
- The Department of Energy receives $34.5 billion, an increase of $3.8 billion and the Advanced Research Projects-Energy program is intact;
- The National Park Service is funded at $3.2 billion, an increase of $255 million;
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services will see an increase of $1.3 billion over 2017 and includes more than $1.7 billion to address opioid and heroin abuse;
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other financial regulatory agencies will maintain their independence and remain largely outside the appropriations process.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.