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NOREEN: Congressional operating budget included in the sequester

By: BARRY NOREEN
February 26, 2013
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Quite a few people are upset by the latest congressional parlor game involving the sequestration of funds, across the board, in the federal budget.

Congress is in the habit of giving itself cushy treatment, so reader Ron Berkley called in to ask, “Is Congress having to lay people off or is Air Force One going to be grounded?”

The answer to the first part of the question is yes, some layoffs of congressional staffers have occurred and positions that could have been filled have not been. The budget cuts that could be imposed beginning Friday would impact congressional staffing, but not the paychecks of congressmen.

And no, Air Force One is not going to be grounded. According to the Congressional Research Service, here are some exemptions to possible budget cuts:

• Social Security benefits (old-age, survivors, and disability) and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits.

• All programs administered by the Veterans Administration.

• Payments to individuals in the form of refundable tax credits.

• Unobligated balances, carried over from prior years, for nondefense programs.

• At the President’s discretion, military personnel accounts.

• Advances to the Unemployment Trust Fund.

In the run-up to the council pay hike measure in the city election in April, reader Diane Brautigam wrote  “I thought the City Council were volunteer positions. When we voted on the $6,250 ‘pay’, I thought it was a stipend to reimburse them for their expenses to serve on City Council.  Are they volunteers or employees?”

Well, one could argue that at their current pay level and all the hours they put in, council members are volunteers. In fact, they are elected officials who are paid.

They are not employees in the traditional sense because they cannot be fired and they do not have benefits as city employees do. Yet they do work for the taxpayers.

If the ballot measure passes they would be paid $48,000 a year. Half of that money would come from the city’s general fund and half would come from Colorado Springs Utilities, which is governed by council members when they convene as the Utilities Board.

 

 

Got a question? Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or at barry.noreen@gazette.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Hear him on KRDO 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 
6:35 a.m. Fridays.

 

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