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Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees Will Put Pressure on Taxpayers

June 18, 2008

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union, I urge you to oppose the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 5781). This legislation would provide federal employees with four weeks of paid leave following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. The legislation would also allow the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to offer as many as four additional weeks of paid leave. Our members ask you to reject this significant expansion of public sector perks.

As the Bureau of Economic Analysis confirms, "Federal government employees receive higher benefits in the form of pensions and health insurance contributions than private-sector employees." According to the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards, "the new data for 2006 show that 1.8 million federal civilian workers earned an average $111,180 in total compensation (wages plus benefits). That is more than double the $55,470 average earned by U.S. workers in the private sector."

Without a doubt, federal employees already have a comfortable benefits structure. Adding four weeks of paid parental leave -- and possibly more -- will only exacerbate this imbalance and place a larger strain on the taxpayer. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has projected an $850 million five-year cost on H.R. 5781. This equals the annual amount of federal income taxes paid by 209,566 filers who have adjusted gross incomes between $30,000 and $75,000.

As noted above, OPM may offer up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, partly for reasons of "enhanced recruitment and retention of employees" and "the federal government's role as a model employer." The federal government has no problem retaining employees; in fact, its voluntary turnover rate (9.3 percent) is almost one-third the rate of the private sector (26.5 percent). Second, it's easy to be a "model" employer when you're doing it on the taxpayer's dime. Restraint in public budgeting is a virtue that should not be forgotten.

H.R. 5781 calls for a Government Accountability Office study on the feasibility of providing an insurance benefit to federal employees for medical or caregiver leave. Why not include parental leave in this study as well? An optional insurance plan involving worker contributions would certainly lower the cost to taxpayers compared to a straight benefit of paid parental leave.

Roll call votes on H.R. 5781 will be included in our 2008 Rating of Congress. We encourage you to vote with the taxpayer by voting "no."


Kristina Rasmussen
Director of Government Affairs