National Commentary

Moran’s News Commentary: Remarks on the Payroll Tax Extension

Congressman Jim Moran’s remarks, as prepared, on H.R. 3630, the payroll tax conference committee report. The bill passed the House on February 17, 2012.

I rise this morning against a Payroll Tax extension that adds to the deficit and rejects the idea that all of us should sacrifice for the common good. Again, this body is asking only one group of Americans to bear the burden. And those individuals are federal employees – hard working members of the middle class dedicated to serving their country.

Federal employees safeguard our nation, protect your food from contamination and ensure the drugs we take to cure our illnesses will do only exactly that.

And what do federal employees receive in turn from their elected representatives? A constant, sustained attack from some in this body who claim that they are overpaid, unpatriotic and undeserving of the compensation they have rightful earned.

The facts, if anyone is interested in them, are as follows:

Federal employees are underpaid by as much as 26 percent against their private sector counterparts with similar education and experience.

Some reports have suggested otherwise. I will remind this body that the federal government does not discriminate on the basis of gender or race. We know the private sector has pay disparities between men, women and minorities.

The federal government recognizes that all of us deserve equal pay and it compensates its employees accordingly. That should not be the basis for which to attack federal employees as overpaid.

The fact is that the only one group of Americans who have sacrificed to reduce our national deficit are federal employees. By forgoing two years of pay raises, federal employees have already sacrificed more than $60 billion in lost income. And today, dedicated men and women entering the federal workforce are being asked to contribute $15 billion more through higher contributions towards their retirement benefits.

New federal employees will see nearly a 400 percent increase in their contributions without an increase in their benefit. Let me be clear: without a corresponding increase in benefits, a larger contribution is simply a pay cut.

This increase in contributions is a solution without a problem. The civil service retirement and disability fund is solvent, and will run a $482.7 billion dollar surplus by 2085.

So, I wonder why Republicans are motivated to attack their benefits. Listening to the other side of the aisle, I surmise that these attacks are simply intended to ensure our country’s best and brightest are dissuaded from public service.

At a time when nearly fifty percent of the federal workforce is within 5 years of retirement, the federal government should be doing everything it can to boost recruitment and retention efforts.

Today’s conference report does exactly the opposite.

Instead of preparing the federal government for declining budgets and the new threats and challenges we face in the 21st Century, House Republicans are ensuring our federal government will be under manned and less responsive, setting up our nation for failure.

Furthermore, for so many Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, the Unemployment Insurance benefits extended in this legislation are critical to putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads.

Unfortunately, the Republican Majority has demanded and secured cuts to these benefits as part of this extension, despite the persistence of long-term unemployment in this country.

Benefits will be cut by as much as 30 weeks in the states with the highest unemployment rates. Beneficiaries in the Commonwealth of Virginia will lose 19 weeks of assistance. There is a theory, not rooted in fact, that these benefits increase unemployment. The reality is that even as the economy is improving there are simply still not enough jobs for all of the job seekers.

We as a Congress must be cognizant of this fact and not pull the rug out from under those who need help the most. This conference report not only punishes federal employees for their dedication to public service, but it will end unemployment insurance for those Americans who need it most.

 


Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

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