Trumka Cool to Final Federal Budget Blueprint

WASHINGTON —AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka gave a cool reception to Congress’ 2-year federal budget blueprint that at least provided a temporary truce in the GOP-inspired fiscal wars that roiled the government.  And the American Federation of Government Employees panned the budget pact, too.

Lawmakers passed and Democratic President Barack Obama signed the blueprint, which sets spending at $1.012 trillion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2013 and $1.014 trillion for the following year.   It also rolls back $65 billion of the GOP-mandated budget cuts, called the “sequester,” which took a meat axe to food stamps, federal workers, air safety and almost all other domestic programs.

Trumka’s big problem is the blueprint leaves unemployed workers out in the cold.  Congress passed the budget and quit for the year without renewing federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Lawmakers must still draft an actual money bill to keep the government going after Jan. 15.  The blueprint gives them guidelines for it.

“You’ll have 1.3 million people without benefits on Dec. 31 and another 1.6 million in the first six months” after that, Trumka said in an interview.  “This is not a campaign issue” for Democrats or Republicans, he added.  “It’s about feeding them.”

AFGE President J. David Cox said his union still opposes the budget deal, but Congress brushed his objections aside.  AFGE and other federal worker unions hit what Cox called “a tax increase” on federal workers: Ordering workers hired starting Jan. 1, to pay more for their pensions without receiving higher benefits down the line.

Congressional negotiators said the higher pension pay-ins would raise $6 billion over a decade.  Lawmakers plan to raise another $6 billion by cutting future cost-of-living increases for early retirees – workers aged 40-62 — from the military.  Several Republican senators who voted against the final budget deal, which passed by a bipartisan 64-36 margin, said the military provision prompted their opposition.  The GOPers promised to try to revoke it, but they were silent about the federal workers’ pension pay-in increase.