FEDweek

Federal Employee Buyout Boost Stirs to Life in Congress

A Senate committee is scheduled to vote today (Wednesday) on a bill boosting the buyout maximum governmentwide for the first time since separation incentives first were offered during the Clinton administration, from $25,000 to $40,000, and then adjusting it annually for inflation.

Congress has been mostly silent since a budgetary request months ago to raise the standard amount to the higher figure, which now applies only at the Defense Department.

However, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported out a bill on Thursday (S-1888) that would boost the amount on enactment, and then each March 1 there would be an inflation adjustment based on the prior calendar year’s CPI, with the amount rounded to the nearest $1,000. It would not change any other buyout-related policies, such as the general requirement to repay the full, pre-tax amount if returning to the government within five years.

The bill was offered only a few days in advance of the planned vote, a practice the committee commonly uses for uncontroversial bills. Such bills then often are moved quickly to votes by the full Senate under a shortcut procedure allowing for passage without debate so long as no member objects. The bill would then move to the House.

The administration’s original proposal came from the DoD in its request for its annual authorization bill–which carries some language applying to other agencies, as well. Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of that bill and the only language referencing buyouts is in the House bill: it would extend the higher limit at DoD for another three years, through fiscal 2021. Before the Senate vote, the White House had again called for the increase, signaling that the boost was a priority item for it.