WASHINGTON - Border Patrol agents would be willing to give up time-and-a-half overtime pay if it meant they would not have to be furloughed as part of mandated federal spending cuts, their union president testified Friday.
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told a House subcommittee that in exchange for giving up overtime pay, agents would want a two-step increase in base pay. But Judd said the government would still come out ahead.
"The reform I have just proposed saves tax dollars, reduces overtime pay and brings about financial certainty to both the Border Patrol agents and the agency alike," Judd told the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency.
Judd said agents would lose about $7,000 each in overtime while only getting back about $4,000 in the base-pay increase. He said the change could save the government $40 million in the first year and $125 million annually after that.
Customs and Border Patrol officials declined to comment Friday, saying they are still looking at the best way to deal with cuts under the budget sequestration.
But Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., said the union's proposal merits consideration.
"I think we need to take a hard look at it, both the department and the Congress, to see how it might better improve our border security and give some certainty to agents and to our efforts to secure the homeland," Barber said at the hearing.
Judd repeated assertions that furloughs or reductions of overtime hours would simply create holes in the border that smugglers would exploit to get people and drugs into the country. He said such a move would erase the progress the Border Patrol has made over the last several years.
Judd said agents routinely work overtime now to deal with crime on the border. Agents get regular pay for the first 85.5 hours they work over a two-week period and then time-and-a-half up to 100 hours. His plan calls for straight time instead of time-and-a-half.
Agents are paid half-time after working 100 hours in a pay period, which Judd said happens often.