Highways, Bridges and Roads

Federal workers’ union criticizes $260B House GOP transportation plan

{mosads}But NTEU President Colleen Kelly said lawmakers should look somewhere other than the retirement plans of federal government employees to fund a new transportation bill.

“Why look to highway trust funds and gas taxes to fix crumbling roads and bridges when you can find the funding by reneging on federal pension commitments and cut federal pay?” Kelly said in a news release Wednesday.

Kelly said the legislation would require the workers to pay 1.5 percent more toward their retirement plans, which she said amounted to “a steep pay cut.

“I find it outrageous that the Oversight Committee would seek to impose this regressive legislation on federal employees who already are contributing $60 billion to deficit reduction through the current two-year pay freeze,” Kelley said. “It is especially discouraging when you consider that the House simply refuses to address the pressing need for shared sacrifice, particularly from the wealthiest Americans.”

In a news release after the Oversight Committee approved the measure, Ross said it was necessary because federal pensions had almost $700 billion in “unfunded liability.”

“The unfunded liability stems from the fact that the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund is not a store of wealth for the federal government,” Ross said. “In other words, it is a trust fund full of IOUs, just like the Social Security Trust Fund.”

Ross made no mention of shifting any money to the transportation bill, but lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are looking for revenue sources for a new multi-year transportation bill. The measure would spend upwards of $50 billion per year on road and transit projects, according to bills that are moving quickly in the House and Senate, but that amount is between $13 billion and $14 billion per year more than is contained by the traditional funding mechanism for federal transportation bills, the Highway Trust Fund.

The trust fund is funded by the federal gas tax. But the gas tax only brings in about $36 billion a year, and increasing the current 18.4 cents per gallon taxation rate has been a non-starter with both parties and President Obama.

House Republicans have suggested using revenue from increased oil drilling to fund its plan to spend $260 billion on transportation over the next five years without bankrupting the trust fund, which a recent Congressional Budget Office report said could be zeroed out as early as 2014.

The Democratically-controlled Senate has countered with a bevy of tax loopholes that could be closed, and suggested sweeping $3.7 million from another pot of money, the Leaking Underground Storage Tank trust fund.

Separately, Obama has called for using money saved from reduced defense spending.

Having completed its committee work on its two-year, $109 billion transportation bill, the Senate could hold its first floor on the measure, for cloture, as early as Thursday afternoon. 


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