Policy

EPA Sets Aside $12 Million for Employee Buyouts in FY 2017

Democrats have criticized plans for deep cuts to the agency

Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has been critical of the Trump administration's plans for the EPA. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The EPA is setting aside $12 million of its fiscal 2017 budget allocation for a previously announced plan to offer employee buyouts and incentives for early retirements as part of a Trump administration effort to cut the agency’s workforce, according to a memo from its chief financial officer, David A. Bloom.

The $12 million comes from a pool of $24 million in unused money from fiscal 2016, according to the memo.

“Streamlining and reorganizing is good government and important to maximizing taxpayer dollars,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told CQ Roll Call in an email. “This includes looking at developing opportunities for individuals to retire early. It’s a process that mirrors what the Obama Administration EPA did about four years ago, to ensure that payroll expenses do not overtake funds used for vital programs to protect the environment.”

The Obama administration initiated a buyout in 2014 that eliminated around 200 employees. The EPA has lost nearly 2,000 workers over the past decade; it employed about 17,000 people in 2006.

Federal agencies have a “Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment Authority” that allows those downsizing or restructuring to offer employees lump-sum payments up to $25,000 “as an incentive to voluntarily separate,” according to the Office of Personnel Management.

In his preliminary fiscal 2018 budget proposal on March 16, President Donald Trump called for deep cuts to the EPA, including a 31 percent reduction in funding and the elimination of about 3,200 jobs.

The EPA’s Bowman did not say when the buyouts would start or how many employees they were targeting in the current buyout program.

Democrats, including Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, have condemned Trump’s plans for deep cuts in the agency.

“If President Trump sends pink slips to more than 3,000 EPA employees as he has proposed, it will be impossible for the agency to carry out its mission,” Carper said in March when the White House released its budget outline.

Carper’s office and that of EPW Chairman John Barrasso did not respond to requests for comments on the EPA’s plan to offer buyouts.

Republicans have generally been supportive of reducing the EPA’s authority, although some might be reluctant to support deep cuts that could hamper initiatives like Superfund site cleanups.

The White House is set to release a more comprehensive version of its budget proposal on Tuesday.

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