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NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, September 14, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“It is imperative that NARFE members continue contacting their legislators in support of a pay raise for federal employees, as the conference committee process is underway. This is especially true for NARFE members who are constituents of a conferee listed below. Not all NARFE members will be directly impacted by the outcome of this legislative battle, but fighting for this pay raise is in defense of the entire federal community. To single out and target federal employees during a strengthening economy while private-sector wages are rising, only shows a disdain for federal public servants and the indispensable work they do. We cannot sit idly by while the civil service is under attack.”

Committee Determining the Federal Pay Raise Convenes

Through the conference committee process, 26 conferees will determine the fate of the calendar year 2019 federal pay raise as part of the fiscal year 2019 (FY19) Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill. The Senate version of the bill includes a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2019; meanwhile, the House was silent regarding a federal pay raise in its version of the legislation. Conferees will decide if the pay raise will be included in the final version of the bill that is reported out for a final vote in each chamber. If Congress does not take action, the president’s proposed pay freeze will take effect.

NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to conference committee members urging them to include the 1.9 percent pay raise in the conference agreement for H.R. 6147. Further, the letter urged that if a continuing resolution precedes final votes on the conference agreement, then it should include the pay raise as well.

The legislators named to the conference committee for H.R. 6147 are listed here:

  • Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL
  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK
  • Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND
  • Sen. James Lankford, R-OK
  • Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-MS
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT
  • Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI
  • Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-DE
  • Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ
  • Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-AL
  • Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID
  • Rep. Ken Calvert, R-CA
  • Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK
  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-FL
  • Rep. Tom Graves, R-GA
  • Rep. David Young, R-IA
  • Rep. John Rutherford, R-FL
  • Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY
  • Rep. David Price, D-NC
  • Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-GA
  • Rep. Betty McCollum, D-MN
  • Rep. Michael Quigley, D-IL
  • Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME.

NARFE members should contact their legislators and voice their support for the 1.9 percent pay raise as this legislation nears the finish line, especially NARFE members whose legislator was named as a conferee.

Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Update

This week, a joint House and Senate conference committee reported out H.R. 5895, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water and Legislative Branch appropriations package. The conference agreement provided $44.6 billion for the Energy and Water appropriations bill, $98.1 billion for the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill and $4.8 billion for the Legislative Branch appropriations bill. H.R. 5895 was sent to the president after the conference report was adopted in the House 377-20 and in the Senate 92-5.

A joint House and Senate conference committee also issued a conference report for the Department of Defense, and the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations package, H.R. 6157. The conference agreement provides $674.4 billion for the Department of Defense appropriations bill and $178.1 billion for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, to avoid a government shutdown, this appropriations package also contains a continuing resolution (CR), which would extend current levels of funding through December 7, 2018 for agencies that haven't had FY19 funding approved by Congress. The CR will offer Congress more time into the next fiscal year to finish the rest of the appropriations bills. This legislation awaits a final vote in each chamber before it can be sent to the president.

Grassroots Corner

Did you miss Tuesday’s webinar? In the September Advocacy webinar, “115th Congress Legislative Update,” Staff Vice President for Advocacy Jessica Klement detailed the latest from Capitol Hill, and what Congress has in store for your federal retirement and health benefits for the rest of the year. This webinar provided a look back at recent congressional and executive actions affecting the federal community, updated you on where things stand now and looked forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. You can access the webinar recording by clicking here.

Hotline on As-Needed Basis Until September 28

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 28.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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NARFE Headquarters, September 7, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“President Trump reiterated his intent to freeze federal pay in 2019. This makes our concerted efforts more necessary than ever to push Congress to pass a modest federal pay raise and counteract the president’s actions. Please use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to urge your legislators to include a federal pay raise in an appropriations package and reject the president’s pay freeze. We must ensure that federal employees are valued and treated fairly. A pay freeze only serves to weaken the federal government’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified workers to take on challenging civil service roles on behalf of the American public.”

The Debate Over 2019 Federal Pay Heats Up

On August 30, President Trump announced his plan to freeze federal pay for calendar year 2019. Click here to read NARFE President Richard G. Thissen’s response to the president’s alternative pay plan that would set across-the-board and locality pay increases at zero for active civil servants next year.

President Trump’s plan to freeze federal pay comes at a time of economic prosperity and rising private sector wages, which is a direct attack on the civil service. Federal employees experienced a three-year pay freeze between 2011 and 2013 and low pay increases since—all while the wage gap between the public and private sectors has continued to widen. If civil-service pay continues to fall further behind private-sector earnings, it will become increasingly difficult to attract and retain the best and brightest into federal employment. Denying federal employees even a modest pay raise in a time of economic prosperity shows a disdain for civilian federal employees and the invaluable, behind-the-scenes work they do to keep our nation functioning.

Many members of Congress echoed NARFE's position in favor of a pay raise for federal employees to the White House and congressional leadership. Congressman Scott Taylor, R-VA, led a bipartisan letter to President Trump urging him to reconsider his proposed pay freeze, citing the vital work done by civil servants and the need to recruit and retain a strong federal workforce. Similarly, Congressman Raskin, D-MD, led a letter from 158 Democratic members of Congress to House and Senate leadership urging them to reject President Trump's pay freeze and adopt a 1.9 percent pay raise for Feds in 2019. (The letter was being finalized as of the Legislative Hotline's press time.)

NARFE, with the support of our nationwide network of grassroots activists, is working with Congress to counteract President Trump's intention to unfairly freeze federal pay. The full Senate approved a 1.9 percent federal pay raise in its Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, while the House was silent on a pay raise. The two chambers are now in the conference committee process, where they will reconcile the differences between the two chambers' versions. Absent congressional action, the pay freeze will go into effect. Contact your legislators and urge them to support a modest, much-deserved pay raise for federal employees in 2019.

NARFE Files Brief with U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Federal Retirees from State Tax Discrimination

This week, NARFE weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court case, Dawson v. Steager, by filing an amicus curiae brief in support of a former U.S. Marshal, James Dawson, challenging West Virginia’s discriminatory tax treatment of his federal annuity. You can read a statement from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen by clicking here.

West Virginia exempts from state income taxation all retirement benefits earned by state law enforcement officers from four state retirement plans. Mr. Dawson applied for the same tax treatment for his FERS annuity earned through federal law enforcement service, but was denied by the West Virginia State Tax Department. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the unfair tax treatment, determining that federal statutory and constitutional law only prohibit state tax schemes that provide “blanket” exemptions to all state retirees while denying such an exemption to all similarly situated federal retirees. This interpretation allows for a loophole in which West Virginia can provide tax exemptions to narrow subclasses of state retirees without extending the same exemption to federal retirees whose annuities are based on a similar type of work.

Mr. and Mrs. Dawson appealed this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case earlier this year. The Court’s decision will determine whether West Virginia’s differing state tax treatment of state and federal retirement income violates the doctrine of intergovernmental tax immunity, as codified in federal law (4 U.S.C. 111), and as decided by Davis v. Michigan. In Davis v. Michigan, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that state governments cannot place a heavier tax burden on federal annuitants than on state and local government annuitants, unless the discriminatory treatment is “justified by significant differences between the two classes.”

More broadly, Dawson v. Steager implicates how states tax the income of more than 2.6 million federal annuitants nationwide. If West Virginia’s denial of the Dawsons’ claim is upheld, other states could adjust their tax codes to provide exemptions to different classes of state and local government employees without providing the same treatment to federal annuitants.

 NARFE Supports Federal Salary Council Recommendations

In an August 24 letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), NARFE President Richard G. Thissen advocated on behalf of the Federal Salary Council’s locality pay recommendations for January 2019 made to the President’s Pay Agent. On behalf of NARFE, Thissen expressed support of the council’s estimated locality rates for January 2019, the establishment or modification of pay localities and the level of comparability payments for January 2019.

Locality pay is designed to minimize the disparity between General Schedule salaries and the average nonfederal salaries in a given geographic area. NARFE supports the council’s recommendations to reduce the pay disparity between federal and nonfederal workers in various localities. This would not only improve recruitment and retention efforts, but would also attain a level of fairness that our civil servants deserve.

Join NARFE on Tuesday, September 11 for a Special Advocacy Webinar

Weren’t able to attend FEDcon18 in Jacksonville? We’ve got you covered. In an upcoming webinar, Staff Vice President of Advocacy Jessica Klement will detail the latest from Capitol Hill, and what Congress has in store for your federal retirement and health benefits for the rest of the year. This webinar will provide a look back at recent congressional and executive actions affecting the federal community, update you on where things stand now and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, September 11, at 2:30 p.m. ET for a special legislative update. RSVP here.

Grassroots Corner

August, NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month, more than 100 advocacy activities were reported via the Congressional Meeting or Event Feedback Form by NARFE members! Additionally, NARFE members sent over 31,000 messages to Congress urging legislators to support NARFE's "Big 3" legislative priorities.

NARFE members answered the Advocacy Department’s call to action when threats were made to the Senate-approved 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees. Of the 31,000 messages sent in August, nearly 17,000 urged legislators to support a modest pay raise for civilian federal employees in 2019.

Even though August is over, the work doesn’t stop. To be successful at combating a federal pay freeze, NARFE members need to continue contacting their legislators and ask them to support a pay raise for civilian federal employees. The easiest way to connect with your legislators is to use NARFE's Legislative Action Center to send a message, call or tweet your legislators today.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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NARFE Headquarters, August 3, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“This week, the Senate approved a 1.9 percent average pay increase for federal workers in 2019. That’s a big step towards ensuring our nation’s public servants receive a modest raise to keep up with rising private-sector pay in a time of economic prosperity. Now we need to make sure the House also approves the well-deserved pay bump for middle-class federal employees, who come to work every day dedicated to helping the American public.”

Senate Passes Federal Employee Pay Raise for 2019

The Senate passed a bill on August 1 that would provide civilian federal employees an average raise of 1.9 percent in January 2019. If signed into law, pay rates will increase by 1.4 percent across-the-board, and locality pay rates would increase by an average of 0.5 percent.

The raise was included in a package of four appropriations bills bundled into one “minibus,” H.R. 6147. The minibus passed by a vote of 92-6. The House did not include a pay raise in its version of the legislation. The bills now go to conference to resolve differences between the House and Senate.

NARFE members should contact their representatives and urge them to support the Senate’s version and include a pay raise for federal employees. Without congressional action, federal pay will be kept stagnant by the Trump administration, which has clearly stated its intention to freeze federal pay for calendar year 2019.

NARFE expresses its sincere appreciation to the Senate for advancing this modest pay increase, and particularly to Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, the chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, for including the pay raise in the subcommittee’s bill. NARFE President Richard G. Thissen and NARFE Oklahoma Federation President Randy Freeland requested the inclusion of the pay raise in a letter to Sen. Lankford in June.

Grassroots Corner

This week marks the beginning of August – NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month. In August, members of Congress return to their home states and districts from Washington, DC, to meet with constituents and listen to the concerns of their community. Because of this, August is NARFE's Grassroots Advocacy Month and the perfect opportunity to make your voice heard. During August, we hope you take time to advocate on your own behalf and that of the federal community. Click here to view grassroots resources and guidelines for your advocacy efforts this August. You must be logged in to view NARFE’s grassroots materials.

How should you take action during Grassroots Advocacy Month? Click here to watch a short video of two NARFE members explaining how you can participate in Grassroots Advocacy Month. We need every NARFE member to take action in order to prevent threats to the federal community from becoming law.

Click on the links below to send a message, call or tweet your legislators via NARFE's Legislative Action Center regarding NARFE's “Big 3” legislative priorities.

Thank you for contacting your legislators this August about NARFE’s “Big 3” legislative priorities. NARFE’s advocacy department appreciates your efforts. If you have questions about how to participate in advocacy activities this August, please contact advocacy@narfe.org.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis until September 7

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 7.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

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