Block-grant squeeze hurtsFederal employees nationwide will...

Newswatch...on federal workers

May 15, 1991|By Kate McKenna | Kate McKenna,States News Service

Block-grant squeeze hurts

Federal employees nationwide will be hard hit by President Bush's block-grant proposals, according to a new state-by-state analysis of how the budget decreases will cut into local %o government coffers.

"The fiscal disasters now spreading through state capitols and city halls have already brought job freezes, massive layoffs of public employees and cuts in services," states the study, released on Capitol Hill by the Service Employees International Union.

"The funding cuts that will ensue from Bush's block-grant proposal further compound state and local budget woes," according to the study, which analyzes the "New Paradigm" state funding initiative unveiled earlier this year.

The report likens Bush's strategy to President Reagan's "New Federalism" policies, which it says produced "fiscal disaster for states and localities."

States will lose an estimated $27.3 billion in federal grants over the next five years under Bush's proposal, according to the SEIU study.

The Bush block-grant proposal would consolidate $15 billion in program money from 42 federal grants-in-aid programs into one "mega-block grant" for each state.

The National Governors Conference has proposed the consolidation of 53 programs now costing $15.2 billion. The National Conference of State Legislatures also came out in favor the block-grant strategy. Meanwhile, the administration and the governors are working toward offering a compromise next year; the Service Employees Union, however, opposes all versions.

Rather, the Service Employees Union is proposing that federal funds "be targeted where they can have the greatest return: transportation, public infrastructure and a healthy, well-educated skilled work force."

The 965,000-member union is calling for a shift in federal funding to transportation, public education, national health-care reform -- well as employment, job training and unemployment insurance reform.

Help needed

About 6,000 new full-time employees will be needed if the Social Security Administration is to carry out its responsibilities in the coming years, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

Speaking earlier this week before the House Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, AFGE national President John N. Sturdivant noted that the population the agency must serve has increased by 10 percent.

However, he said, the agency's staff has been reduced by 27 percent.

"As recently as fiscal year 1985, Congress appropriated monies to fund approximately 86,000 federal workers. Today, staffing stands at 63,000 . . ." said Sturdivant at Tuesday's hearing

Trouble at IRS

Four IRS officials in Richmond, Va., may be facing a rare jury trial for the illegal arrest, search and public humiliation of an IRS employee.

Stating that the conduct of the IRS defendants "borders on the outrageous," U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams this week ordered that the case brought by IRS clerk Lorenzo C. Terrell go forward.

The lawsuit, filed in November, charges that Terrell's constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment were violated when the IRS officials arrested and publicly disgraced him at his place of work.

The officials had gone to Terrell's office to search him for evidence of illegal drug possession. No evidence was found on Terrell, a steward with the local chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union.

NTEU President Robert M. Tobias said Judge Williams' action was "a warning" to other federal government officials.

"Federal officials cannot hide behind the curtain of government immunity when they act with such arrogant contempt for the constitutional rights of their employees," he said.

The lawsuit asserts that the two IRS employees confronted Terrell at his workplace with an arrest order for $60 in 8-year-old court fees. The officials then conducted an extensive body search, and called local police, who handcuffed Terrell and led him past his co-workers.

Letter-carrying heroes

A letter carrier who rescued a trapped driver from an overturned chemical tanker truck . . . a member of the Eastern Region letter carrier local who saved an 8-year-old being attacked by a renegade pit bull . . . and a mailman who reached into a runaway car to rescue a young girl inside are among those hailed as heroes this week by the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Judges for the awards included Lawrence W. Rogers, director of the U.S. Labor Department's worker compensation office, and Assistant Chief LeRoy Oettinger of the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

The National Hero of the Year recipient was Jon Bickford of Maine, who was en route to his mail carrier job when he came upon the chemical-tanker accident on a foggy interstate.

Bickford managed to lead the driver from the toppled tanker, which was carrying 2,500 gallons of industrial cleaning acid, moments before the acid began to vaporize and envelop the area with toxic fumes. The highway was later closed and the surrounding neighborhood was evacuated.

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