Agencies Funded Through April; Much Else Kicked Down the Road

Congress’s adjournment ends a year in which it changed several important federal employment-related policies but left much on the table for another attempt in 2017. Among the final actions was to temporarily extend agency funding (P.L. 114-254) through April 28, mainly at fiscal 2016 levels but with add-ons for certain priorities. That essentially keeps the government on auto pilot for what will be most of the current fiscal year and puts final budget decisions for the current fiscal year in the hands of the Trump administration and the new Congress–just as attention turns to the budget for the year starting next October. The temporary extension completed a strategy that Congress had followed all year of allowing a raise to take effect by default –2.1 percent on average as it turned out, following a late decision by President Obama to boost the amount from the 1.6 percent average that had been on the table all year. Also by remaining silent Congress allowed an especially steep increase in Medicare Part B premiums to take effect in 2017 for certain enrollees, including most CSRS system retirees. The other major legislation to pass before adjournment was the annual DoD authorization bill, which includes government-wide provisions generally limiting to 10 days a year the number of paid administrative leave days allowed when an employee is under investigation that could lead to disciplinary action; requiring that the results of such probes become part of an employee’s official personnel folder even if the person separates before any disciplinary action is taken; and requiring that agencies review those records when considering hiring a former federal employee. The bill also asks for a report on veterans preference in time for including possible changes in next year’s version, and raises, although only for DoD and only through fiscal 2018, the buyout maximum from $25,000 to $40,000.