Washington D.C. – Federal employees would receive a 3.1 percent pay raise in 2020, Customs and Border Protection could hire 1,200 new port officers and the IRS would see an infusion of new funding under legislation approved today by the House Appropriations Committee.
The National Treasury Employees Union has endorsed the proposals, which now move to the full House for consideration.
“Improving pay for all frontline federal workers and alleviating the staffing crisis at the ports of entry are two major developments from Capitol Hill that will resonate across the country,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “And, an increase in funding for the IRS is welcome news for taxpayers still dealing with changes to the tax laws and in need of trained employees who can help.”
He added, “We commend the members of the House Appropriations Committee who don’t just say they support our federal workforce, but take real action to demonstrate it, and we encourage Congress to pass the funding bills into law.”
The pay raise would be a clear rejection of the administration’s proposed pay freeze and provide parity by giving civilian workers the same adjustment now planned for military servicemembers. The raise includes an across-the-board increase of 2.6 percent, plus 0.5 percent for locality pay.
The Department of Labor’s Employment Cost Index shows that private industry wages have increased by an average of 11.2 percent in the last five years and federal wages have not kept pace.
The pay raise and IRS funding are contained in the House Financial Services and General Government funding bill and the hiring surge for CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill. The House Appropriations Committee considered both bills at its markup.
The DHS bill includes $91 million to hire 1,200 additional CBP Officers, which would put a dent in the current shortage of 3,700 positions. It also includes $29.8 million for 240 new Agriculture Specialists of which there is also a shortage. Finally, it would allow CBP to hire 406 new mission support personnel.
“Understaffed ports of entry put a strain on law enforcement and slow legitimate trade and travel across our borders,” Reardon said. “It is gratifying to see congressional leaders put a premium on making sure our ports run efficiently and effectively, which improves our nation’s security and economy.”
NTEU was part of a broad coalition of business, industry, trade and travel organizations that urged Congress to address the staffing crisis. The coalition, which includes the Airports Council International, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Association of Port Authorities and 16 other organizations representing port users, sent a letter to Congress on Monday citing Joint Economic Committee Research that delays at the border cost the U.S. economy up to $5 billion a year.
“Providing additional CBP officers at this time of growing volumes of international passengers and cargo will both reduce lengthy wait times and facilitate new economic opportunities in communities throughout the United States,” the coalition letter states.
The proposed $12 billion budget for the IRS in FY 2020 is almost $700 million more than the current funding level and would help the IRS improve taxpayer services, enforcement and equipment modernization.
“The IRS has lost 23,000 full-time employees since 2010 because of severe budget cuts, so the funding level approved today by the House Appropriations Committee represents a true turning point for the agency’s ability to restore its workforce and service levels to peak efficiency,” Reardon said.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.