Federal Budget (and Federal Employee Salaries) Tied Up in “Lame Duck” Congress

2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year for many readers as federal employee benefits and wages are likely to again have front page publicity as the federal budget is debated in the midst of massive federal deficits and federal spending.

On December 4, 2010, the President signed into law H.J. Res. 101. This provides fiscal year 2011 appropriations through Saturday, December 18, 2010, for continuing projects and activities of the Federal Government provided under Public Law 111-242, the first fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution.

No budget resolution was adopted prior to the elections in November–probably because many in the House did not want to go on record for voting for another record setting federal budget in the midst of soaring federal deficits. None of of the 12 annual appropriations bills, which fund the day-to-day operations of major agencies and Cabinet departments, has been passed by Congress.

As a result, the entire federal government apparatus has spent the past two months dependent on a continuing resolution that would have expired Friday but now goes to Dec. 18.

The administration sent in more than fifty funding adjustments it
wants for the federal government and wants these adjustments to be part of a stripped-down appropriations package for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year ending September 30, 2011. The Obama administration wants $11.4 billion in new spending above 2010 levels although most agencies are likely to be left at the 2010 spending levels.

As a result of their new strength after the recent elections, Republicans, especially those in the House, would prefer to wait until the new Congress convenes to approve a final budget as they will have greater power to force spending cuts. As an indication of the mood in Congress after the November elections, the Senate approved the new temporary spending bill without any objections. However, all but two House Republicans opposed the extension on a 239-178 vote last week.

There is a chance that at least one more “temporary” spending bill will be passed to allow the federal government to continue to function until the early months in 2011. Republicans generally think voters want to cut government spending while the more liberal Democrats are obviously not in agreement with budget cuts.

For federal employees, the year should prove to be interesting as President Obama has already proposed a two year freeze in any wage increase (but not in other wage increases such as step increases, bonus payments or promotions). Before all is said and done, there is likely to be a lively discussion about changing the federal retirement system, particularly for new federal employees. And, as the election results in November were overwhelmingly in favor of Republicans, there is likely to be more support for spending cuts and changes to federal employee benefits. House and Senate Members coming up for election in 2012 will, in some districts, want to be able to go back to their constituents touting their votes to cut back on spending to try and reduce the federal deficit.

2012 is shaping up as an interesting year in politics and is likely to prove interesting to many readers as federal employee benefits and salaries, which are normally largely invisible, are likely to take a front row seat in the nation’s media again next year.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47