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Bipartisan Spending Bill Will Promote Economic Growth, Includes Key NH Measures

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Bill to fund government restores COLA funding for disabled veterans, includes $75 million for fishery disaster relief, investments in Shipyard

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that the bipartisan appropriations bill unveiled last night will both promote economic growth and include many key measures she has championed in recent months. The legislation will specifically keep the government funded through Fiscal Year 2014, repeal many of the reckless sequester budget cuts, and promote job creation and economic growth.

The bill builds on the bipartisan budget agreement passed in December and makes investments in many New Hampshire priorities, including:

  • Disaster relief funding for New England fisherman
  • A fix to a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for disabled veterans
  • Military construction resources for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
  • Resources to complete the activation of the Federal Corrections Institution (FCI) in Berlin
  • Funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The legislation also rolls back wasteful spending including taxpayer funded expenditures on oil paintings of public officials. Senators Shaheen and Tom Coburn (R-OK) drew attention to this waste of taxpayer dollars by introducing bipartisan legislation last year designed to cut these expenditures. The legislation also requires all federal agencies to become better stewards of taxpayer dollars by implementing mandatory 10 percent cuts to overhead costs and by investing in Inspectors General offices as Shaheen has fought for. This effort will help agencies better identify waste and cut spending through audits and oversight.

“This bipartisan appropriations bill makes strategic investments in our economy that will help create jobs while also preventing another government shutdown and repealing some of the sequester cuts that hurt economic growth,” Shaheen said. “Now we have to keep up the bipartisan momentum to pass this bill and additional job-creating measures.”

The appropriations bill, negotiated by the House and Senate, includes a partial fix to COLA adjustments in order to protect disabled veterans. Last month Shaheen introduced the Military Retirement Restoration Act to protect all future military retirees from the COLA cuts passed in a bipartisan budget agreement in December. Shaheen’s legislation would restore the cuts and replace the savings by eliminating a tax loophole for American corporations that use offshore tax havens, a move that would generate an estimated $6.6 billion in savings.

“This bill also takes a good step toward correcting the cuts to military retiree benefits,” Shaheen said. “I hope we can continue in this direction and vote on my plan to restore all of the adjustments as soon as possible on behalf of the people who have served our country.”

The funding package also invests in New Hampshire defense priorities, authorizing $1.6 billion toward the continued development of the new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker to be based at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire as well as $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In addition, the bill funds the Beyond Yellow Ribbon Program, which connects servicemen and women and their families with community support, training, and other services, at $13 million. Also included in the package is funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which will help modernize the way the U.S. meets challenges posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction, at $500 million.

“New Hampshire plays an important role in our national defense and this bill rightfully makes strategic investments to support our shipyard, our economy, and our men and women in uniform,” said Shaheen, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support.

Additional measures included in the funding bill are $75 million toward fishery disaster relief, $3.425 billion for LIHEAP, and $6.9 billion to the Bureau of Prisons, which is sufficient to complete the activation of the Berlin Prison that is expected to create 340 local jobs and provide a $40 million economic boost to Northern New Hampshire.

Shaheen has repeatedly advocated for Congress to support New Hampshire fishermen and other states affected by declining fish populations and consequent economic losses by authorizing disaster relief.

“Fishing is one of our state’s oldest industries and remains a critical engine of our economy,” said Shaheen. “The resources in this bill will provide necessary support for fishermen and coastal communities who are struggling during difficult times.”

Funding for LIHEAP in this bill is a $169 million increase from FY 2013 levels, for a total of $3.425 billion. The program helps seniors and low income households in New Hampshire with home heating costs and has become particularly critical in recent years as the struggling U.S. economy and high energy prices and reduced LIHEAP funding have forced more Americans to go without this critical assistance. Shaheen has been a strong supporter of LIHEAP throughout her time in the Senate and was recently part of a successful bipartisan effort to encourage Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to expedite the release of LIHEAP funds, allowing those in need to receive assistance as soon as possible.

Steelworkers Disgusted by Caterpillar CEO’s Shameful 2012 Cash Grab

Steelworkers logo USW

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) today denounced Caterpillar Inc. CEO Douglas Oberhelman’s 32 percent compensation increase from $16.9 million in 2011 to $22.4 million in 2012 as shameful and unwarranted.

USW District 2 Director Michael Bolton said that rewarding Oberholman’s  job performance by boosting his already lavish compensation by nearly one-third in 2012, despite lower than expected earnings, sends a dangerous message to other CEOs that lining their pockets at the expense of their workers is somehow acceptable.

“In 2012, Caterpillar Inc. put 700 people out of work by shutting down its Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ont. after locking out its workers when they rejected a 50 percent wage cut; then the company bullied almost 800 workers into major wage and benefit concessions after a three-month labor dispute in Joliet, Ill.,” Bolton said.

“In South Milwaukee, Caterpillar management threatened to lay off 40 percent of the plant less than a week before our negotiations started,” Bolton said, “and when we got to the table, the company proposed unnecessary, sweeping changes to our contract language and continues to demand unfair concessions in other major economic and non-economic areas.”

“There’s no secret to Caterpillar’s approach to labor relations,” Bolton said. “The company clearly is willing to hold jobs, families and entire communities hostage in its drive to bust unions, depress workers’ incomes and slash workers’ health insurance and other benefits so that Oberholman and other top executives can cash in.”

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

USW Local 1343 represents 803 Caterpillar workers in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Stopping Sequester Cuts Should Be Number One Priority In Washington Right Now!

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard 3

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard 3Every day that goes by brings us one step closer to the Sequestration cuts that nobody wants. Yet nobody can seem to stop them though many are trying.  Everyone agrees that allowing sequestration to happen would send America down the wrong path and would result in a loss of millions of jobs in both the private and public sectors.

“Prof. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University concluding that sequestration budget cuts would cost 1.05 million jobs from spending reductions at domestic agencies and 1.09 million jobs from Pentagon spending.” (GovExec)
(emphasis added)

These cuts will hit us right here in New Hampshire.  This would mean drastic cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  Recently Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Senator Collins released a statment on how these cuts would effect the workers at the PNS.

“The measures the Navy announced include a civilian hiring freeze, cutting temporary workers at shipyards and base operating support facilities, reduced funding for critical repairs, and a possible 22-day furlough of civilian Naval employees. As Shaheen and Collins say in their letter, these cuts “would have severe ramifications for many critical defense facilities, including our own Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.”

“The Navy’s announcement underscores just how unacceptable automatic sequestration cuts are not only to our national security but to our economy as well.  We need a comprehensive plan to rein in our debt and deficits but not in a way that puts our vital national security and economic interests at risk.  I’m disappointed that we missed an opportunity to work in this manner last year during the fiscal cliff negotiations but am hopeful that moving forward we can take steps to avoid the kinds of actions that the Navy announced,” Senator Shaheen said.

Senator Shaheen spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee reaffirming the need for bipartisan support to end the Sequestration cuts. Shaheen raised particular concern over the impact sequestration could have on the country’s industrial base, citing the potential devastation on New Hampshire small businesses that constitute a core part of the national defense industrial base.

“When it comes to our budget we need a comprehensive approach that is fair and balanced with respect to cuts and new revenues,” Shaheen added. “I will do everything I can to be flexible about that and to be willing to look at all the options that we have to get a solution because this is not just about our military readiness and this country’s national security, it’s also about the future of the economy in this country.”

Senator Shaheen has been very vocal in her opposition to the Sequestration cuts and the inability of both the US House and Senate to pass a long term budget solution to this problem.

“The fact we have not [come up with a long-term solution] means each and every one of us in Congress should take a second look at what our jobs are in this body,” Shaheen said.

Unfortunately many of the GOP Congressional members are suddenly singing a different tune when it comes to Sequestration.  Durning the election season many of the GOP were against the cuts and now they seem to be throwing their hands in the air as if they cannot stop them.  Some have even suggested that these cuts are the best thing to get our national debt under control.

Both sides need to come together and stop these automatic cuts that will send our economy into a tailspin.  Millions of middle class Americans would be forced out of their jobs or forced to take almost a month off without pay.

Even a short term solution may be to late to stop job losses in the private sector.

“Even without sequestration, the country is slowly backing away from long-term investments that make it the global leader.” — Wes Bush, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman

All industries rely on the strength and security the Federal Government provides.  They need to know that their funding will continue or at least know what their funding will be over the next few years to plan for their own future.

Millions of jobs are on the line and we elected you to Congress to help create new jobs not destroy the good middle class jobs we already have.

Budget Cuts Threaten Enforcement Of Job Discrimination Laws (from @AFGE)

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EEOC faces employee furloughs at time of record high discrimination complaints, AFGE says

Potential budget cuts from sequestration would devastate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ability to enforce laws that protect American workers from job discrimination, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

The sequestration scheduled to take place in March would slash an estimated $23 million to $30 million from EEOC’s $360 million annual budget, which amounts to a cut of between 6.5% and 8.2%. Given that the bulk of EEOC’s budget goes to pay employee salaries and expenses, EEOC would have no choice but to lay off workers without pay for extended periods of time.

“EEOC simply cannot absorb a cut of this magnitude,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “This cut would cripple the agency’s ability to enforce laws that protect against workplace discrimination. EEOC cannot enforce laws without frontline staff allowed to be on the job.”

EEOC already has been suffering under the second year of an unprecedented budget cut, which has reduced its budget each year by $7 million. Because EEOC is a small and historically underfunded agency, even this “haircut” has meant the loss of 9% of the agency’s staff.

To make matters worse, these cuts are occurring at a time when workload is way up. EEOC has seen historically high charge filings during the past three years, receiving 99,412 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal 2012 alone. EEOC continues to struggle with an unacceptable backlog of 70,312 cases and average processing times exceeding nine months.

“These extended delays represent lost opportunities for Americans who want to work.  Cutting EEOC is counterintuitive at a time when job creation is the nation’s priority, because the agency’s mission is all about jobs,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of AFGE’s National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216.

It is anticipated that, in the event of extended employee furloughs, EEOC would ensure that the intake of new discrimination complaints remained open. However, there would be no staff available to process these cases, so the backlog would skyrocket, Martin said.

“For all intents and purposes, the United States would cease to have enforceable civil rights in the workplace should sequestration occur,” she said.

AFGE represents employees on the front lines of protecting civil rights in the workplace. EEOC’s investigators, attorneys, mediators, administrative judges and other staff contribute to job creation by enforcing this nation’s civil rights laws, which protect against discrimination on the job based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age disability and now genetics.

AFGE is calling on Congress to avoid sequestration and employee furloughs in fiscal 2013. Going forward, EEOC’s budget for fiscal 2014 must be restored to at least $367 million, which would match EEOC’s operating budgets in 2010 and 2011.

 

We Must Work To Preserve Thousands Of Federal Jobs

Save our jobs (AFSCME)

For months now the NH Labor News has been warning people that sequestration could lead to huge cuts to the Federal workforce.  The people at GovExec.com have been collecting and compiling all the information around these cuts.

From GovExec Report:

Commerce Department: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association could face the loss of 2,500 jobs in weather and satellite programs. 10,780 new jobs in water infrastructure would be threatened.
Defense Departments: The department is in the early stages of planning. Civilians could face furloughs and a hiring freeze.
Education Department:Furloughs are possible, according to Secretary Arne Duncan.
Federal Aviation Administration: As many as 2,200 air traffic controllers could be furloughed.
Federal courts: 20,000 employees could be furloughed for 16 days.
Homeland Security Department:24,500 jobs could be slashed.
Justice Department:Possible five-week furloughs for FBI employees. 7,500 positions could be eliminated.
NASA:20,500 contractors could lose their jobs.
Social Security Administration: Employees could be furloughed for two to three weeks.
Veterans Affairs DepartmentMostly exempt from sequestration.

These numbers represent real middle class families throughout the country.  These cuts could push struggling families over the edge.

I still cannot wrap my head around the thinking in Congress that cutting thousands of jobs will reduce unemployment??

Promises, promises…

EGTRRA signing

A lot of promises were made, back when the Bush tax cuts were first enacted.

Back in 2001, the Heritage Foundation projected that:

  • “Under President Bush’s plan, an average family of four’s inflation-adjusted disposable income would increase by $4,544 in fiscal year (FY) 2011, and the national debt would effectively be paid off by FY 2010.”
  • “The plan would save the entire Social Security surplus and increase personal savings while the federal government accumulated $1.8 trillion in uncommitted funds from FY 2008 to FY 2011.” (“Uncommitted funds” is a fancy way of saying “surplus”.)

Did your family’s disposable income increase by $4,544 last year? (Wondering how the top 1% are doing? Browse through “How to Spend It” here.)

Has the national debt been paid off?
Is the Social Security surplus “safe”?
Has your family been able to increase your savings?

What happened to the $1.8 trillion federal surplus that was supposed to appear, after the tax cuts stimulated the economy and the “job creators” created jobs?

Lots of promises were made, back when Republican Leadership was forcing the Bush tax cuts through Congress. [Historical footnote: both the 2001 tax cuts and the 2003 tax cuts were passed in a way that made them exempt from Senate filibuster. In 2003, the Senate vote was 50-50 after Republican Senators John McCain, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe voted “nay”; and Vice President Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote to enact the bill.]

Those promises never panned out. But now, Republican leaders in Congress are acting as if high-income taxpayers are somehow entitled to the low tax rates they have been enjoying for the last decade

What’s up with this idea of “entitlement”?

Millions of American workers have paid into the Social Security system for decades, based on the promise that we would get Social Security benefits when we retired. Isn’t it reasonable for all of us workers to think we’re entitled to the benefits we contributed to? But now, Congressional Republicans are insisting on “adjustments to eligibility and benefits in the Social Security and Medicare programs.”

One man – Dick Cheney – cast the deciding vote to give the wealthy their tax cuts; but now Congressional Republicans think those tax cuts are somehow sacred. Just two days ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a hometown newspaper that any “fiscal cliff” deal “must not raise taxes on wealthy.”

Sense of “entitlement”?

“Gifts” from the government?

The Bush tax cuts were supposed to “jump-start” our economy. They were supposed to “trickle down” and enrich working families. They were supposed to eliminate the country’s debt. They didn’t do any of that – but now Congressional Republicans want us to pay the price, through cuts to our Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Didn’t they get the memo? Romney-Ryan lost.

Congress Gets Ready To Throw The Federal Workforce Under The Bus!

Smashed Piggy Bank Retirement

As the lame duck session is about to begin Federal workers in every department are concerned.  Concerned is to nice a word, they are scared sh*tless! Why because they only conversation that is happening right now in Washington DC is about how they have to cut the Federal Budget.

Many of the GOP are pushing a plan created by Senator Alan Simpson and Former White House Chief of Staff Esrkine Bowles.  The Simpson-Bowles plan would save the government money.  However it is not enough to balance the budget or not stop our mounting debt.   The Simpson-Bowles was not adopted or sent to the US House for a vote do to the fact that the ‘fiscal commission’ could not agree on it.

The Bowles-Simpson commission needed 14 of the 18 votes. It failed on an 11-7 vote, with four Democrats and three Republicans, including (Paul) Ryan, voting no.

While Simpson-Bowles also has drastic reforms to other programs like Social Security healthcare I want to focus on the Federal workers.  Here are a few highlights of the Simpson-Bowles plan as written by Kellie Lunney at GovExec.com

Extended pay freeze: The panel recommended a three-year civilian pay freeze across government. The commission estimated the freeze would save $20.4 billion in 2015. The plan also freezes lawmakers’ pay. Obama and lawmakers extended the current two-year pay freeze at least until the end of March, when the continuing resolution expires. Obama wants to give feds a 0.5 percent pay bump when Congress passes a budget next year. But that assumes that one, Congress will pass a budget and two, lawmakers won’t vote to extend the current federal pay freeze.

Smaller government workforce: The Simpson-Bowles report recommends shrinking the government rolls by 10 percent by hiring two new workers for every three employees who leave service. The commission claims such a reduction would save $13.2 billion in 2015.

Increase employees’ health care contributions: The panel suggested adopting a voucher plan and slowing the growth of federal contributions to the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

Review military and civilian pension systems: Simpson-Bowles recommended creating a task force to look at changing the pension system for feds and eligible retired service members. One possibility the commission suggests is increasing the amount feds contribute to their pensions. It’s worth noting that Obama and several lawmakers also support making feds pay more for their defined retirement benefit.

So to recap, they have created a plan that starts by cutting workers pay. Mind you these are the same workers who have not seen a pay raise in over three years already.

They want to increase their workload by reducing the number of people to do the job.  So the lines at your local Social Security office are not going to be getting shorter any time soon.  Make employees pay more for health insurance.

They are planning on using the same failed logic and create a voucher program for the Federal Employees Health Plan. This is similar to the plans they are suggesting for Medicare and Social Security that sound great but fail the reality check.

Lastly they are going to stick it to our bravest men and women.  The same men and women who fought to preserve our way of life and the Government that is now trying to hose them.  Changing the retirement system right before or just after someone retires is absolutely wrong.

Congress is once again looking to take from the workers to pay for their mistakes.  They need to stop using the Federal workers as their own personal piggy banks and start working together to find real solutions, not temporary bandaids that hurt workers.  Real solutions start with changes on every level. Increasing revenue, making discrete and calculated cuts not broad base hack jobs, and working together to make these decisions.

People always say we should run the government more like business, well Enron was once a successful business once too.

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