Reported by Marybeth Luczak for Railway Age.
The Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) ability to process retirements and sickness benefits for railroad employees and retirees “living in every state and every congressional district” would be “severely” impacted by the limitation on RRB’s administrative funding included in the fiscal year (FY) 2024 House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) told Congress in a July 31 letter expressing their opposition.
“As passed by the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee on July 14, 2023, the House FY 24 bill would cap RRB’s administrative funding at $103 million, a $25 million decrease from FY 23 funding, which is maintained in the Senate FY 24 bill, and over $35 million below the President’s FY 24 Budget Request,” the organizations told Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), Chairwoman, House Committee on Appropriations; Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash), Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations; and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations in the letter (download below). They stressed that at this funding level, RRB would be forced to cut approximately 23% of its current workforce, “dramatically slowing down processing times and service for beneficiaries.”
They pointed out that the House “funding limitation comes at a time when RRB is in dire need of more employees and has consistently asked Congress to increase the administrative funding limitation to better meet the needs of the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by RRB.” Additionally, they said, this “new limitation is especially troubling because, though it was included under the guise of lowering federal spending, it does not cut spending at all. The overwhelming majority of funding for the RRB, including the administrative funding capped by this bill, comes from payroll taxes paid by railroad employers and railroad employees. No other taxpayers or businesses pay into the fund, and the RRB does not receive any funding from the U.S. Treasury. Therefore, caps on RRB spending do not reduce the deficit or slow federal spending. Further, this limitation on funding would not reduce the amount of money paid into the fund by railroads or railroad workers. All this limitation will do is force RRB to cut staff and reduce service to hard-working railroad employees and retirees.”
AAR, ASLRRA and TTD urged the Congress members to “remove this draconian limit on RRB’s administrative funding and support the limitation in the Senate bill, which maintains FY 23 funding levels and allows the agency to maintain its current employment levels and continue providing strong service to the over 530,000 beneficiaries currently served by the employees as well as 200,000 active railroad employees relying on these benefits in the future.”