Senators Introduce Bill to Limit Use of “Official Time” in Federal Workforce
Today, U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act, a bill that would reduce "official time" for government employees. Under the practice of "official time", as authorized under 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, federal employees can be paid by taxpayers to complete duties that are not related to the mission of their agency, allowing in some cases for employees to perform union-related activities - some even full time - while on federal payroll. According to the Office of Personnel Management, in 2011, the government spent $155 million on 3.4 million hours used for "official time."
"Using taxpayer dollars to finance what is often highly partisan and political full-time union work is a grievous violation of the public's trust," said Dr. Coburn. "Sadly, this is a widespread problem. Agencies like the IRS and VA have hundreds of employees on their payrolls that do nothing but full-time union work paid for by taxpayer dollars. This bill will restore the public's trust by ensuring federal employees - and the taxpayer funds that support them - are instead used to appropriately execute the mission of every federal agency."
"Hard-working taxpayers are paying federal workers to do their official jobs - period," said Senator Barrasso. "This bill makes it clear that union-related activities should not be funded by the American people."
"The abuse of official time by federal employees to perform union-related activities on the taxpayer dime is costly, inefficient, and unfair to the American people," said Senator Burr. "Recent information shows that an alarming number of federal employees, including those responsible for providing vital services to our nation's veterans, spend 100% of their time not serving the mission of the agency they work for. This is unacceptable and a slap in the face to those veterans who sacrificed so much for the rest of us and to the American people who deserve to know their hard-earned tax dollars are put to proper use. With our country buried in debt, this bill is a very common-sense measure to ensure that these types of wasteful practices no longer occur."
"We have an obligation to ensure that the money we receive from taxpayers is used only for the legitimate duties of government, not political activity cloaked under the guise of official business," said Senator Cornyn. "I'm proud to support this measure to end an abuse of taxpayer funds and improve government transparency."
"Federal workers should be paid for the work they do and not the political activity they want to do," said Senator Enzi. "Federal agencies have a mission, and that should be the priority of their workers. The American taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize union activity during government work hours."
"At a time when our nation faces serious fiscal challenges, it is imperative that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently," said Senator Isakson. I am proud to co-sponsor the Federal Employee Accountability Act because it will go a long way in ensuring that tax dollars are used to further the mission of each respective agency and not used for causes such as union activity."
"Federal Agencies like the VA need to make sure that they have all hands on deck to fulfill their missions," said Senator Portman. "Unfortunately, however, many agencies allow their taxpayer-funded employees to focus their time and energy on full-time political, union activities that don't have anything to do with the official task at hand. At a place like the VA, taxpayer dollars should be funding employees to tackle the challenges of the claims backlog and providing necessary medical care to our veterans. Our veterans deserve nothing less than that, and this legislation will ensure that happens."
"It is an embarrassment that millions of federal dollars have been wasted on federal employees spending their time on union-related work," said Senator Risch. "This legislation puts an end to these abusive practices and will put taxpayer-paid employees back to work for the America people."
"Hard-working taxpayers should not be footing the bill for federal employees to participate in union activities on official time," said Senator Rubio. "It's an abuse of government power and a waste of already scarce government resources. This bill will hold federal employees accountable and ensure that they are fulfilling their official duties instead of engaging in often partisan and political union activities on the American taxpayer's dime."
"The public deserves assurances that federal employees are spending their official time working on behalf of the American people and not on partisan union activities," said Senator Thune. "The federal government must demand better oversight of our taxpayer dollars, and ensure that civil servants are performing the responsibilities for which they were hired."
The Federal Employee Accountability Act would repeal the provisions that entitle federal employees to official time while providing an exception for circumstances where both unions and agencies agree the use of official time is "reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest." The bill would not affect federal employees' ability to organize or have union representation in hearings. The bill is a companion bill to H.R. 107 sponsored by Representative Phil Gingrey, M.D., (R-GA).
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