Mikulski Urges Geithner to Take Federal Employee Pensions Off the Budget Chopping Block

Senator says promises made must be promises kept

June 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), this week sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, urging him to protect federal employee pensions during the budget process. Right now, the Department of the Treasury is borrowing billions from the federal employee pension funds to avoid America defaulting on its debts after reaching the debt limit. These same pensions, that are currently helping to avert a fiscal disaster, have been targeted for cuts in recent debt-reduction negotiations.  

"I value the service of federal employees, and I know how important these benefits are to millions of middle-class families," Senator Mikulski said. "Promises made must be promises kept. We must not put federal employee pensions on the chopping block in budget reduction negotiations."                                                     

The full text of the letter follows:  

Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary
Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220  

Dear Secretary Geithner:  

I write out of concern for our hardworking federal employees and the pension funds that they have paid into over their working lives. Federal employee pension funds are being used to prevent a fiscal disaster, and federal worker's pensions are being targeted for cuts to balance the budget.  

Right now, the Department of Treasury is borrowing billions from these workers as part of a series of emergency measures to prevent the catastrophic consequences of hitting the debt ceiling. This is not the first time that federal employee pension funds have been used to prevent the government from defaulting on its debts. It is the fifth time in fifteen years. Each time, federal employees are told "Don't worry—your retirement savings aren't at risk," but Congress has tested the faith of our federal workers repeatedly.  

These men and women are dedicated and duty driven. They are on the frontlines protecting America every day securing our borders, inspecting our food, and performing critical health research. They deserve a decent wage, safe working conditions, and our thanks and respect.  

Unfortunately, rather than being recognized for their contributions, federal employees have become scapegoats for the financial problems our nation faces.  They have already been subject to a two-year pay freeze.  But that wasn't enough. Now, some Members of Congress and Administration officials are asking federal workers to contribute significantly more to their retirement plans—a proposal that would essentially lead to a 5 percent pay cut.  

I value the service of federal employees, and I know how important these benefits are to millions of middle class families. Promises made must be promises kept. We must not put federal employee pensions on the chopping block in budget reduction negotiations.  

Sincerely,    

Barbara Mikulski
United States Senator