In the private sector, bonuses are awarded to employees who do great work for their employers — not to those who commit serious violations or crimes. Federal sector employees should be treated no differently. That is why I reintroduced the Stop Improper Federal Bonuses Act (S.2119) this summer, which would prohibit federal agencies from giving bonuses to employees who have committed conduct or legal violations.

Right now, far too many of Nebraskans’ hard-earned tax dollars are going toward the bonuses of federal employees who shouldn’t be receiving them. A 2018 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report found that between October 2015 and December 2016, the IRS issued more than $1.7 million in awards to 1,962 employees with disciplinary or adverse actions during the prior year. That is unacceptable.

The Stop Improper Federal Bonuses Act will put an end to that practice by preventing agencies from giving bonuses to a federal employee for five years after the end of a fiscal year in which the agency makes an “adverse finding” relating to an employee. An “adverse finding” occurs when an employee commits a violation serious enough to get them terminated or suspended for at least 14 days, or when an employee commits a crime that could cause them to be imprisoned for over a year. My legislation also provides a mechanism to recover previously awarded bonuses when the agency learns of misconduct.

Additionally, this bill includes provisions to help protect against irresponsible managers and ensure that only true violators are stripped of bonuses. Any employee who believes that he or she wrongfully received an adverse finding can appeal that finding to the Merits System Protection Board, an independent agency within the Executive Branch tasked with protecting federal employees from abuse by agency management.

I believe that this bill is common sense, and I’m not alone in thinking so. The National Taxpayers Union recently included it on the group’s annual “No-Brainers” list of 10 bipartisan bills that Congress should pass. The NTU noted that “it is only fair that public sector workers are held to the same standards” as workers who break the rules in the private sector.

Most recently, the Stop Improper Federal Bonuses Act was reported favorably out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this summer. I hope to see the bipartisan support this bill received in committee extend to a vote by the full Senate. When put to a vote, I am confident that lawmakers from both parties will recognize that this bill is about good governance. We need to ensure that our Americans’ taxpayer money is being spent wisely, not on bonuses for employees with a history of misconduct.

Bonuses to federal workers should only be given on one basis: merit. I am committed to protecting Nebraska’s taxpayers from reckless spending and will continue to advocate for this bill in the Senate.

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