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Jeb Bush Essentially Says To Federal Workers, Screw You!

Jeb Bush (Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

Can we all stop pretending that Jeb Bush is a “moderate” rather than the far-right wing extremist he really is?

“He [Jeb Bush] championed tax cuts that chiefly benefited business and the wealthy, trimmed the state’s payroll, stripped job protection from thousands of mid-level civil servants, gained more power over the judiciary, exploited his Washington connections to prevent the closing of military bases and launched the nation’s first statewide private-school voucher program,” wrote Linda Kleindienst of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2007.

Jeb Bush has made it perfectly clear that he wants federal workers to give up more to pay for his brother’s tax cuts that should never have happened.

Yesterday the Hill published the article, Jeb Bush: Strip Feds of Automatic Pay Raises and Due Process, which is even worse than the title indicates.

He starts with yet another hiring freeze and reducing the number of dedicated public servants by eliminating positions as people retire. His plan is similar to Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan (replace one worker for every three who retire). So when Joe and Mary retire from OSHA that means will just have to make do with two fewer safety inspectors because the campaign contributors Bush caters to won’t care if OSHA is grossly understaffed and can’t fulfill its responsibilities.

In theory the Bush/Ryan plan would reduce the overall government workforce by 10% in five years. That’s 10% less Air Traffic Controllers, 10% less food safety inspectors in the Department of Agriculture, 10% less agents to help you in the Social Security Administration, 10% fewer scientists at NASA, 10% fewer prosecutors in the Department of Justice, 10% ….you get the idea.

That is only the beginning. Next he wants to go after workers’ paychecks!

Jeb argues that federal workers are overpaid and that the government rewards “longevity instead of performance.” He wants to eliminate annual increases and only give increases “based on performance.”

This is another classic union-busting tactic: pitting workers against each other for pay increases and rewarding those who oppose the union or suck up to their managers. What happens to workers who question their boss about safety violations in their workplace? What happens to workers who see something illegal going on? Do you think they will be getting pay raises next year?

How do you judge the performance of a food safety inspector? Is it the number of violations he caught and wrote up, which resulted in a lower number of facilities inspected, or is the employee who breezed through more facilities but missed more violations?

On top of pitting workers against each other, as Governor Jeb Bush incentivized managers who saved the government money or found ways for their departments to reduce spending. “Sorry no bonuses for you because I am showing Governor Bush that I am saving the government thousands of dollars.”

The political right loves to tell everyone that government workers are overpaid and are underserving of their paycheck. In fact the Washington Post reported the complete opposite.

White-collar federal employees on average earn 35.2 percent less than private-sector workers in comparable jobs.”

I actually agree with Jeb when he says: “Just like in the real world, compensation should depend on the type of work, and the quality of the work.” The Washington Post goes on to say that more educated federal workers are at a “disadvantage” to their private sector counterparts.

I think someone should inform Jeb that federal workers have already given more than their share from their paychecks. Over the last ten years alone federal workers have contributed over $159 billion dollars to debt reduction plans pushed by the Republicans who control Congress.

  • Federal workforce contribution_April 9 copy3-year pay freeze (2011, 2012, 2013) — $98 billion
  • 2012 UI extension which increased retirement contributions for 2013 hires to 3.1% — $15 billion
  • 2013 lost salaries of 750,000 employees furloughed because of sequestration — $1 billion
  • 2013 Murray-Ryan increased retirement contributions for post-2013 hires to 4.4% — $6 billion
  • 2014 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.8% — $18 billion
  • 2015 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.9% — $21 billion

Total Federal Employee Sacrifice Thus Far: $159 billion

In the 2016 budget they want to take even more!

Republicans are proposing another $238 billion in forced concessions by federal workers through higher retirement contributions and creating a voucher system for health benefits that are going to cost employees even more.

The 2016 budget will force federal workers to lose between $2,525 and $5,617 dollars. Each.

So far Jeb Bush wants slash the number of dedicated public servants, force workers to give back thousands of dollars from their own wallets to “reduce the debt,” give bonuses to managers who reduce spending in their departments, and then he wants to make it easier to fire employees for arbitrary reasons.

That’s right, Jeb Bush wants to strip away employees’ union rights, repealing the right to due process and turning federal workers into “at will employees” – all to make it easier to fire people.

Another classic union busting tactic is to “reduce spending” by firing higher-paid employees (before they can collect any retirement) and replacing them with lower-paid new employees.

As Governor, Jeb Bush used this same tactic to fire 16,000 workers from their jobs with the State of Florida. Jeb Bush gave agency heads to use their “sound discretion” to send people packing, and tied it to his “Service First” program that gave incentives to managers who found ways to reduce government spending.

This isn’t a “moderate” agenda.

Bush may not be insulting veterans or giving out people’s cell phone numbers – and he’s not trying to terrify the electorate with talk of apocalypse or an imagined invasion of Texas – but a lack of hard-core lunacy doesn’t make him a moderate candidate.

He’s part of the far-right wing.

His agenda would decimate federal services that we rely on.

And as this “clown car” primary season keeps getting weirder and weirder, we need to not lose sight of that.

Federal Union Leader Says Senate Budget Plan Cuts Wages for Working People

Federal employees would see 5.5% pay cut under proposal, AFGE president says

WASHINGTON – Federal employees would be on the hook for billions of dollars in cuts to their take-home pay and benefits under a budget plan issued today by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“Senate leaders have doubled down on the vicious budget cuts proposed a day earlier by their House colleagues,” President Cox said. “Their vision for the future means more financial pain and sacrifice for millions of hard-working Americans who serve the public day in and day out.”

Both the Senate and House budgets for fiscal 2016 would require federal employees to contribute substantially more of their wages toward their retirement without getting any additional benefits in return. This would result in a 5.5 percent cut in salary for most current employees.

That 5.5% pay cut would mean a $1,757 per year loss for a nursing assistant caring for veterans at the Sheridan VA Medical Center in Sen. Enzi’s home state of Wyoming.

“If Chairman Enzi wants to talk about helping working class people with a straight face, he needs to explain how someone caring for our nation’s wounded warriors is supposed to support his or her family when their senator is so focused on cutting their pay,” Cox said.

“Federal employees already have seen their wages and benefits slashed by nearly $160 billion under the guise of fiscal austerity,” Cox added. “When is enough going to be enough?”

“Slashing the wages and benefits of government employees who have devoted their lives to serving the public isn’t a plan for growing the economy. On the contrary, it’s a sure-fire way to lower the living standards for working class people who have already paid a steep price during the economic recession,” Cox said.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.


Union Member and Correctional Counselor Stands for Safety at Federal Prisons

I AM AFGE Screenshot

AFGE member Nathan McCasline stresses need for safer work conditions at federal prisons in latest AFGE documentary

WASHINGTON – Correctional officers inside federal prisons carry no weapons. Most are not even allowed to have pepper spray, and officers only recently won the right to wear protective vests. They often work alone – just one officer for every 130 to 150 inmates.

That’s why the top concern for correctional counselor Nathan McCasline is the safety and security of his fellow officers and staff. Nathan is president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 510, which represents Bureau of Prisons employees at Federal Correctional Institution-Edgefield, a medium-security prison near the South Carolina-Georgia border that houses more than 1,700 male inmates.

“As a union official, it is my duty and it is an obligation to do all I can to make sure that the workplace is as safe as possible so that at the end of the day, that officer can go home to his family,” Nathan says.

Nathan shares his story in the latest documentary produced by AFGE, which represents Nathan and more than 37,000 Bureau of Prisons correctional officers, nurses, teachers, and other staff. The documentary series is part of AFGE’s year-long campaign, “I Am AFGE,” to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them every day.

“Our correctional officers put their lives at risk every day they go to work, and unfortunately some have lost their lives while in the line of duty,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They should not have to fear going to work, and their families and loved ones should not have to worry that they might not come home. That is why AFGE and our Council of Prison Locals have launched the Safe Prisons Project to improve working conditions for Bureau of Prisons employees. They watch over some of America’s most dangerous inmates; the least we can do is watch out for their safety.”

The Safe Prisons Project has three main goals:

  • Increase funding for the Bureau of Prisons to address chronic understaffing issues that put officers in danger;
  • Expand the Pepper Spray Pilot Program to all federal prisons so correctional officers can defend themselves; and
  • Support mandatory sentencing reform by backing the Smart Sentencing Act of 2013 (S 1410 and HR 3382) to reduce overcrowding of our prisons.

“What the union does, it gives us the opportunity to be able to get the equipment we need, to try to fight to get the staffing we need,” Nathan says. “The union also helps us get our voice up on Capitol Hill to let them know we need additional people to be able to come and work this job.”

Nathan’s story is one of 15 short-form documentaries being released by AFGE through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country.

All of the videos are being posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also is being promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

“AFGE represents tens of thousands of law enforcement officers at the Bureau of Prisons and other federal agencies who put their lives on the line every day,” President Cox said. “They and all other government employees have dedicated their careers to serving the public. This campaign is our way of thanking them for their service and reminding Americans of the valuable work they do.”

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Advocate Discusses Fighting Workplace Discrimination in Latest AFGE Documentary

Agency has struggled to serve workers with shrinking budget, union leader Gabrielle Martin says

I AM AFGE@

WASHINGTON – In the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s mission to protect employees from job-related discrimination has expanded as our nation has become more determined to enforce equal rights under the law for all Americans.

EEOC’s initial focus on discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin has grown to cover age, disability, genetic information, and more recently transgender status and gender identity.

But EEOC’s budget has not kept pace, says Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council representing EEOC employees. “We have been woefully underfunded for most of our existence,” Gabrielle says.

The budget cuts required under sequestration have hit EEOC especially hard, resulting in unfilled vacancies that mean longer wait times for employees facing discrimination to receive assistance from the agency. It currently takes nine months on average for EEOC to investigate a case once it’s been filed, Gabrielle says.

“A pregnant woman who loses her job early in her pregnancy is really damaged by the passage of time. There’s the loss of the job, the benefits and really the destruction of a family unit that may be occurring behind that loss of job,” she says.

Gabrielle shares her story in the latest documentary produced by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents Gabrielle and thousands of other bargaining unit employees throughout EEOC. The documentary series is part of AFGE’s year-long campaign, “I Am AFGE,” to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them every day.

“There is nothing more insulting to an employee or job applicant than being treated unfairly on the basis of factors that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The women and men who work for the EEOC are often the only advocates for these employees, and they are doing a remarkable job with limited resources and attention.”

AFGE Council 216 represents all professional and nonprofessional General Schedule employees at EEOC, including investigators, attorneys, paralegals, mediators, administrative judges, and support staff.

Gabrielle says EEOC relies on labor unions to help counsel employees who are facing discrimination and walk them through the process for filing discrimination complaints. In the federal sector, unions like AFGE file complaints on behalf of employees and represent them throughout the process.

Gabrielle recalls hearing stories from her mother about her grandfather meeting with coworkers late at night in an effort to form a union for black employees at the U.S. Postal Service in Chicago. The stories resonated with Gabrielle’s mother and with Gabrielle herself, who joined AFGE to advocate on behalf of government workers.

Gabrielle’s story is one of 15 short-form documentaries being released by AFGE every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country.

All of the videos are being posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also is being promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

“For 50 years, EEOC employees have served a vital role in ensuring our workplaces are free of discrimination and open to everyone,” President Cox said. “They and all other government employees have dedicated their careers to serving the public. This campaign is our way of thanking them for their service and reminding Americans of the valuable work they do.”

Los Angeles TSA Officer Shares His Story in Debut “I Am AFGE” Documentary

AFGE member and LAX Officer Victor Payes recalls harrowing Nov. 1 shooting, threats to TSOs and flying public

WASHINGTON – An American Federation of Government Employees member who serves as a Transportation Security Officer at Los Angeles International Airport and witnessed the aftermath of the fatal Nov. 1 shooting there shares his story in the debut video for AFGE’s documentary series, “I Am AFGE.”

Victor Payes raced to the airport as soon as he heard the news that a gunman had opened fire at the airport, fatally shooting his coworker Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other TSA officers and a civilian. Victor wasn’t scheduled to report to work for another three hours but he knew he had to be there to support his colleagues and serve his country.

“The shooting had happened at 9 a.m. By four o’clock we were back to business,” Victor says in the AFGE video, which is being released today.

The shooting was a stark reminder to Victor and his colleagues of the reason why TSA was created in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: to protect the American public from harm. It also highlighted the threats that security officers face every day in doing their jobs.

“As time has gone on, unfortunately that threat has not just developed to the American public, it’s developed as a threat to us as well,” Victor says. “That serves as a reminder and a reinforcement to us that we’re there for more than just a paycheck. We’re there truly to provide a service to the public.”

A son of immigrants, Victor Payes takes pride in his job because it allows him to provide for his family while giving back to America.

“As an AFGE member, working at TSA, I know millions of people count on us to make sure they make it to their destination safely, and I’m proud to say that we do our job to make sure they get there safely,” he says.

Victor’s story is the first to be featured in AFGE’s year-long campaign to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day. The centerpiece of the “I Am AFGE” campaign is 15 short-form documentaries that will be released every three weeks through the end of the year, highlighting individual federal employees like Payes who carry out important work across the country.

The campaign kicked off last week with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve.

All of the videos will be posted online and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also will be promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).

“AFGE is proud to represent the more than 45,000 TSA officers who protect our skies each and every day under demanding and sometimes dangerous circumstances,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “They and all other federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters.”

AFGE Launches Campaign to Increase Public Appreciation of Federal Employees

Year-long “I Am AFGE” campaign features federal employees who make America great

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is kicking off a year-long campaign to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of the women and men who work for them each and every day.

The multi-faceted campaign, called “I Am AFGE,” launches today with the release of a two-minute video that highlights the invaluable services federal employees deliver and explains how federal employees have much in common with the citizens they are sworn to serve.

Subsequent videos will be released every three weeks, beginning March 26. These 15 short-form documentaries will highlight individual federal employees who carry out important work across the country, including caring for veterans, processing Social Security checks, researching cures for deadly diseases, cleaning up hazardous waste, guarding our nation’s prisons, and ensuring the safety of the flying public.

“Federal employees deliver programs and services that touch tens of millions of American lives each and every day, yet some folks don’t make that connection between the work that federal employees do and the benefits to the nation and individual communities,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“The goal of this campaign is to break down the stereotypes that some folks have about federal employees and the federal government, and highlight all the great work that federal employees are doing. The best way to do this is through federal employees’ own voices.”

More than two dozen federal employees were interviewed for the campaign during AFGE’s annual Legislative and Grassroots Mobilization Conference in February.

The videos will be posted to a dedicated website, www.afge.org/IAm, and distributed to hundreds of news outlets across the country. The campaign also will be promoted through social media, an employee photo contest and other events.

In addition, a special toll-free phone line has been established to record and share testimonials from federal employees or citizens who value the services that federal employees provide. The number to call is 1-844-IAM-AFGE (426-2343).

“Federal employees are the most dedicated workers you could ever have the fortune of meeting. This campaign is our way of shining a light on them and reminding the public why the work that they do matters,” Cox said.

Head of largest federal employee union calls for 4% pay raise in 2015

AFGE president says President Obama must send strong show of support for federal workforce

AFGE Logo 2WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today called on President Obama to provide federal employees with a 4% pay raise next year.

Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget, to be unveiled next week, will propose a 1% across-the-board pay raise for federal employees and members of the military. But that is a pitiful amount that does little to help federal workers recover from a three-year pay freeze, higher retirement contributions and the loss of pay due to sequestration-related furloughs last year, Cox said.

“A 4 percent pay raise is a modest and affordable increase that will help employees keep up with rising living costs, including higher retirement and healthcare expenses,” Cox said.

Wages for federal employees have gone up just 3 percent since 2010, while prices have risen 9 percent – not counting additional out-of-pocket expenses for sequestration-related furloughs, retirement contributions and healthcare premiums. In salary alone, federal employees are more than 6 percent worse off under President Obama.

Federal employees had their pay frozen for three consecutive years, and new workers are being forced to pay substantially more toward their retirement. Without counting the losses due to sequestration furloughs, these cuts amount to $120 billion in lower wages and benefits for federal employees during the next decade.

“The president must send a strong message that inflicting pain on federal employees was a miserable failure. The administration punished federal workers in order to endear itself to those who despise the federal workforce, and it didn’t work,” Cox said. “If the president truly wants to put an end to austerity and the decline of the middle class, there is no better place to start than with his own employees.”

Rep Shea-Porter Votes For Omnibus Budget Bill Ending Threat Of Shutdown

Shea-Porter Supports Bipartisan Appropriations Bill to Invest in New Hampshire and Avert a Government Shutdown

Compromise spending bill would restore COLA funding for disabled veterans and alleviate some of sequestration’s reckless cuts to NH’s economy

Legislation includes key funding for PNSY, NH National Guard, Granite State Veterans, Seacoast Fishermen, LIHEAP, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, and First Responders

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3547, an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through Fiscal Year 2014. The legislation earned the support of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) because it prevents another government shutdown and invests in New Hampshire’s economy and programs vital to the middle class.

“I think it’s shameful that this omnibus bill did not include emergency unemployment insurance and only partially restores the COLA adjustment for military retirees, but I voted for this bill because it’s a bipartisan compromise that invests in New Hampshire’s economy, keeps our post offices open, and reverses some of sequestration’s damaging cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire National Guard, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, LIHEAP, and other vital programs,” Shea-Porter said.

“This legislation ensures that Congress won’t repeat another costly government shutdown, but it is far from perfect. It only repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors because my amendment to fully repeal the cuts was not accepted by the Republican-controlled Rules Committee. However, this bill is a modest step down the long road towards growing our economy and governing responsibly,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R.3547 adheres to the compromise funding levels agreed to in Bipartisan Budget Act, legislation which passed in December. As mandated by the bipartisan budget agreement, it includes a total of $1.012 trillion in regular defense and non-defense discretionary funding.

This bill makes significant strategic investments in New Hampshire, and includes a number of measures championed by Shea-Porter. Highlights follow.

AVERTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

·         The compromise $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2014, thus keeping the government open. The legislation passed the House of Representatives 359-67 earlier today, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. President Obama urged swift passage of the legislation, which needs to be signed by January 18, 2014 in order to prevent another government shutdown.

PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD

·         The bill provides $11.5 million for new military construction at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The legislation also includes a strong mark in favor of submarine programs – fully funding the second 2014 Virginia class submarine, preserving funding for the Virginia Payload Module, and continuing development of the Ohio Replacement.  Congresswoman Shea-Porter and other members of the House New England delegation advocated for full funding of these submarine programs.

NEW HAMPSHIRE NATIONAL GUARD

·         KC-46A Tanker:  The legislation appropriates $1.6 billion to fully fund continued development of the KC-46A air refueling tanker. Shea-Porter has strongly supported bringing the KC-46A to Pease. In the 110th Congress, she secured almost $9 million in funding to build a new facility for the WING Headquarters Operations and Training facility at the base. In the 111th Congress, she also secured $10 million to help the 157th Operations Group, which is responsible for the air refueling mission, consolidate its components into a single building, thus improving its command communications and overall efficiency of operations. In March, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter toured the Pease Air National Guard base to meet with Air Force and Air Guard leaders and show her continued support for Pease and the 157th Air Refueling Wing as the Air Force evaluated final candidates to receive the KC-46A tanker. Prior to that, Congresswoman Shea-Porter joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff expressing support for the selection of Pease.

·         National Guard equipment procurement: The bill exceeds full funding for National Guard and Reserves equipment.

DEFENSE, VETERANS, AND WOUNDED WARRIORS

·         Veterans Backlog: The bill appropriates $320 million to deal with the claims backlog at the Veterans Administration. Shea-Porter has worked consistently to reduce the Veterans Administration’s (VA) disability claims backlog. In October, she voted in favor of bipartisan reforms to help reduce the backlog.

·         Veterans Homelessness: The bill fully funds the President’s request for $10,000 new veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.

·         PTSD Therapy: The bill contains Shea-Porter’s bipartisan amendment to provide $4 million in funding for an innovative dog-training therapy program that is a safe, effective, non-drug intervention to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI in returning service members. Shea-Porter championed the program along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). The amendment was fully paid for.

·         Retired Military COLA: The omnibus appropriations legislation repeals the 1% reduction in the annual military pension cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retirees and their survivors.  Yesterday, Shea-Porter offered an amendment to fully repeal reductions in the military retiree cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

·         TRICARE: The legislation includes $218 million increase for the TRICARE health insurance program for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, to protect beneficiaries against increases in out-of-pocket costs. Shea-Porter included  language in the National Defense Authorization Act would help military families receive access to alternative physical therapies under the TRICARE program.

·         Wounded Warriors: The legislation includes $585.6 million for prosthetic research, which is $3.5 million above the 2013 enacted level.

·         Military Pay Raise: The agreement would fund a requested 1 percent pay raise for members of the Armed Forces and the DOD civilian workforce.

·         Defense and Small Business: Exceeds full funding by $175 million for the Defense Rapid Innovation Program to incorporate small business developments into Department of Defense programs.

DISASTER RELIEF AND FIRST RESPONDERS

·         Federal Emergency Management Agency: The bill allocates $6.2 billion for disaster relief – fully funding FEMA’s stated requirement. The bill also provides a total of $2.5 billion for first responder grants, $39 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, including:

o   $1.5 billion for state and local grants,

o   $680 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and

o   $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

o   Additionally, the bill includes a House amendment that delays certain premium increases in the National Flood Insurance Program.

EDUCATION

·         TRIO: 95 percent of the sequestration cuts to TRIO were restored. Congresswoman Shea-Porter has been a leading advocate of investments in effective programs such as TRIO. In June, she led a group of 21 Representatives in sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that Federal TRIO Programs be protected from further cuts under sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014.

·         K-12 Funding: The $625 million increase in Title I funds over post-sequester funding levels will help support an additional 1 million students, and the $498 million increase over post-sequester funding for IDEA grants will cover the costs of an additional 6,000 special education staff.

·         Head Start: The bill restores the Head Start sequestration cuts and gives grantees a 1.3 percent cost-of-living increase.  Allows the Education Department and HHS to jointly administer a new $250 million competitive grant program for states to develop or expand high-quality preschool programs for low-income families.  In addition, the bill provides a $36 million boost to the Child Care Block Grant program for a total of $2.36 billion.

·         Pell Grants: The maximum annual award, which still must be confirmed by the Education Department and is based on inflation, is likely to rise by $85 to $5,730.

INFRASTRUCTURE

·         New Hampshire Rail: The bill restores funding for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail line that runs through New Hampshire’s Seacoast. Under previous appropriations bills, funding would have expired. By sending two letters to the Department of Transportation, Shea-Porter and the New England delegation worked toward restoration of the $6 million a year in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that supports this critical regional infrastructure.

·         Highways: The bill includes a $557 million increase to Highway funding above the FY 2013 amount.

LIHEAP

·         The legislation includes $3.425 billion in funding for LIHEAP, a $169 million increase over FY 2013 levels. As Granite Staters face another cold winter, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has repeatedly called on Congress to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In April, she sent a bipartisan letter requesting that funding for LIHEAP be authorized at a level of $5.1 billion in FY2014.

MEALS ON WHEELS

·         The omnibus bill contains a $41 million increase for Meals on Wheels, a nutrition program for seniors. Shea-Porter has visited Meals on Wheels in New Hampshire and has spoken out about the fact that under sequestration, Meals on Wheels programs were forced to cut, on average, 364 meals per week and have increased their waiting lists on average by 58 seniors.

NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHERMEN

·         Disaster Relief: $75 million will be allocated toward fishery disaster, thanks to this legislation. Shea-Porter has been a vocal supporter of this program. In early 2013, Shea-Porter wrote to Speaker of the House John Boehner and cosponsored an amendment to reinstate disaster aid.

PRIVACY

·         National Security Agency (NSA): Today’s Appropriations bill would require the National Security Agency to provide Congress the number of phone records collected and reviewed during the last five years, including an estimate of the number belonging to U.S. citizens. The agency would also have to provide an unclassified report describing all spy programs that collect bulk data, including the cost of the programs and what type of records are being collected or what kind of data the agency plans to collect in the future. Shea-Porter has been an outspoken critic of the dragnet collection of data by government agencies. She has called for increased transparency, oversight, and accountability over domestic surveillance.

US POSTAL SERVICE

·         Saturday Mail: The legislation forbids ending Saturday mail or closing rural post offices. Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of H.Res 30, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Postal Service should maintain six-day delivery. She believes the US Postal Service is a vital resource for communities in New Hampshire and that eliminating Saturday mail delivery would hurt consumers and fail to adequately address the issues facing the United States Postal Service.

The bill shamefully does not include an extension of emergency unemployment compensation, an issue that Shea-Porter has repeatedly raised with Speaker Boehner and her colleagues. Today, Congresswoman Shea-Porter requested unanimous consent to end Republican’s refusal to allow a vote on extending emergency unemployment compensation.

“It is deeply disappointing that Republicans in Washington continue to block a vote to renew emergency unemployment compensation and help job-seekers in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said. “This is not the end of the line. I’ll continue to fight for a jobs bill and an extension of emergency unemployment insurance for those looking for work.”

Senator Ayotte says (unofficially): Balance the budget on the backs of Federal Workers, not Military Veterans

Balance the budget on the backs of…..

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.   Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.

The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.

From the Washington Post:

“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”

The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”

Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62.  That is right, that is what she is opposing.

My question is why is she not opposing the budget over the $6 billion dollars that federal workers are going to have to make up with higher retirement contributions?  The Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) released a statement opposing the bill for just that reason.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”

Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?

“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011” — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.” (Money.CNN)

She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.

The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party.  Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending.  She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.

The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition.  She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass.  Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.

With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

Not one state in the entire union has less than 2,200 veterans who are collecting food stamps under the SNAP program this month. (Read the full story about Veterans and SNAP benefits here) 

Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps.  I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.

Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?

The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.

Homeless VeteransUPDATED: 12-17-13

After I published this story, Senator Ayotte was interviewed for a story in the Union Leader where she stated:
the $6.3 billion could be found elsewhere in the budget, possibly by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps.
So it seems I was right, she does not seem to care about the people who are living in poverty or working for the government, only the working age retired Veterans who make great photo opportunities.

Largest Federal Employee Union Leader Rejects Budget Deal Targeting Federal Pensions

AFGE rejects notion that there should be trade-off between federal programs and federal employees

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in response to the budget deal announced today by the Budget Conference Committee:

“Despite the extraordinarily hard work of several Congressional leaders, AFGE cannot support any budget deal that asks for more from federal employees. AFGE represents more than just the 670,000 federal and D.C government employees on the rolls today, but every other federal worker who will one day take the oath and be forced to live with this needless pension cut.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods. Though the $6 billion in increased retirement contributions for new employees is less severe than the administration’s $20 billion proposal, it is still unacceptable.

“Newly hired federal employees already pay 3.1% of their salaries toward their defined benefit pension and 6.2% to Social Security. Forcing employees hired after 2013 to pay an additional 1.3% — for a total of 4.4% — toward their pension will make it all but impossible for them to fund their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.  The result will be a serious shortfall in their retirement income security, and a substantial lowering of their standard of living.

“We also are concerned with the impact of the new self plus one category in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which will raise costs for families with more than two persons.

“None of this would be occurring were it not for the perverted logic of austerity politics. The Budget Control Act was a grave mistake, and the spending cuts it imposes year after year have been ruinous for our economy and for the government services on which all Americans depend. Spending cuts hurt the poor and the vulnerable, and they also hurt military readiness, medical research, enforcement of clean air and water rules, access to housing and education, transportation systems and infrastructure, and homeland security.  Congress should focus its efforts on repealing the Budget Control Act, not pitting federal workers against the very programs to which they have committed their lives.

“While we have not yet seen the language limiting the compensation taxpayers must pay for individual contractor employees to $487,000, AFGE will work to lower the overall amount, which is still too high, and also will work to ensure that there are no unnecessary loopholes or exceptions.  Although limiting contractor compensation technically doesn’t ‘score’ for budget purposes, GAO estimates that it will save almost $500 million annually, just in DoD.  Agencies will be better off by being able to rid themselves of ridiculously high compensation for contractor employees.

“AFGE’s members are extremely grateful for the heroic work of House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen of Maryland for his efforts as a chief negotiator of the budget deal, and in particular for his extraordinary efforts to protect current federal employees. AFGE also is grateful to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Nita Lowey of New York for their leadership in pushing for a deal that would not unfairly punish federal workers.  Finally, Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Harry Reid of Nevada all worked hard to ensure that the budget deal was fair for federal workers.”

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