The IAFF has applauded the work of the congressional “Super Committee” that is writing a plan to reduce the federal deficit, but urged the Committee to avoid making cuts that would harm public safety.
Schaitberger urged the Committee to seek to reduce the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and additional revenue, while encouraging the Committee to avoid tax hikes that could harm fire fighters and other middle-income workers. Specifically, Schaitberger expressed concerns about proposals to cap the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care, which “would destabilize health insurance for 157 million Americans,” and eliminate the exclusion for interest on municipal bonds, which “could drive up interest rates, resulting in….reduced public services such as fire and police….”
Schaitberger also highlighted the affect on fire fighters of raising the eligibility age for Medicare coverage, and expressed strong opposition to further cuts targeting federal fire fighters. Federal employees are currently operating under a pay freeze, and deep cuts in their pension benefits are being contemplated.
Cautioning the Committee against simply passing the federal government’s budget problems along to state and local governments, Schaitberger noted that local jurisdictions are already struggling to close budget gaps of their own. With municipal fire fighters already making concessions due to budget shortfalls, Schaitberger urged the Committee to avoid cuts in state aid that would result in even more cuts to public safety budgets.
The “Super Committee” was created in August by the bipartisan agreement on raising the debt ceiling. The Committee is comprised of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans and is required to report a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion by Thanksgiving. Congress would vote on the Committee’s plan by the end of the year. If the Committee failed to reach agreement or if the House or Senate rejected the Committee’s recommendation, automatic across-the-board spending cuts would be imposed.