Issues / Legislation

Week Ending December 20, 2019

       Congress passes end-of-the-year budget deal and recesses until January.

Congress Avoids a Government Shutdown 

Congress passed all 12 appropriations bills that were packaged into two minibus bills. Combined, the spending packages provide $1.37 trillion in funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020, a full three months after the start of the fiscal year. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation before the continuing resolution (CR) expires today and avoid a government shutdown. The combined package adds almost $50 billion in new spending and makes a variety of important policy changes. The deal rejects many spending cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

What You Need to Know: This end-of-year spending package also includes a set of tax extenders, including one that repeals the 40% tax on high-cost health insurance plans that was part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It provides a 3.1% salary increase for federal employees and $1.37 billion for the border wall, the same amount as in FY 2019 but significantly less than the $5 billion requested by the president. Below are the top-line spending levels with some specific allocations that benefit programs that are important to AFSCME members: 

The Department of Labor received $12.4 billion in discretionary funding, a $291 million increase from FY 2019 levels. Funding for key programs under the DOL are:

Health and Human Services was funded at $94.9 billion, which is $4.4 billion above FY 2019 spending levels. Funding for health programs are:

The Department of Education received a total of $72.8 billion. This is $1.3 billion above FY 2019 levels. Education funding levels are:

The Department of Transportation would receive $86.2 billion, which is $324 million below FY 2019 spending levels. Funding levels for transportation programs are:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development received $49.1 billion, $4.9 billion more than FY 2019 levels:

The appropriations package includes additional must-pass policy, such as:

Tax on Worker and Retiree Health Benefits Repealed

The harmful 40% tax on employer-sponsored high cost worker and retiree health benefits will soon be repealed. This tremendous victory for AFSCME, labor and health care advocates will save working families more than $200 billion over the next 10 years and additionally help preserve workers’ health benefits. 

What You Need to Know: Repeal will benefit many AFSCME members, especially those in communities with high health care costs, because when we collectively bargain for a new contract, management will have less incentive to propose cutting member health benefits. Furthermore, this tax disproportionately burdens older workforces and female-dominated occupations, like nurses and teachers and librarians, and thus repeal will provide relief to many groups of AFSCME members.

House Passes Bill to Suspend Cap on Federal Deduction for State and Local Taxes 

The House voted 218 to 206 to approve the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377), which would help state and local governments maintain their financial stability and continue providing vital public services to all residents. Specifically, H.R. 5377 would suspend for two years (2020-2021) the temporary $10,000 cap on the federal income tax deduction for personal state and local taxes (SALT), including payments for income tax, sales tax, and property tax. For 2019, it would increase the SALT cap from $10,000 to $20,000 for persons filing a joint tax return. However, a successful last-minute amendment would limit the cap increase to filers with adjusted gross income below $100 million.

What You Need to Know: The federal government has a long history supporting state and local government investments in vital public services and infrastructure. AFSCME supports H.R. 5377 because it would help strengthen federal support for these state and local government efforts. Trump has threatened to veto the bill should it pass the Senate and be sent to him.

Federal Employees to Receive 12 Weeks Paid Parental Leave

Nearly all federal government employees will soon be able to receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave to care for their new children. This is a huge win for federal workers and the biggest expansion of federal workplace benefits in decades. After last week’s successful House vote, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the House-Senate package of defense and security policies that includes this paid parental leave provision. Trump is expected to sign the broad package (National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), S. 1790) into law soon.

What You Need to Know: This pro-family paid parental leave provision will be available starting October 2020 to an estimated 2.1 million federal government employees. AFSCME appreciates the dedicated work of House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the long-time champion of this provision, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for working to include this provision in the NDAA package. AFSCME also appreciates the dedicated work on this issue of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who has been the Senate sponsor of this provision. 

USMCA Passes

The House passed 385 to 41, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, also known as NAFTA 2.0. The implementing bill (H.R. 5430), passed out of committee unanimously by voice vote.

What You Need to Know: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Senate will take up the USMCA bill next year after the conclusion of the impeachment trial.