Tester’s border patrol bill gets stamp of approval

Senator’s bipartisan legislation will modernize pay system, bolster security, save taxpayers billions

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester’s ground-breaking bill to reform the Border Patrol Agent pay system earned widespread approval today at a hearing in the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Tester’s bipartisan legislation, the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act, will provide Agents with more reliable pay and work schedules while enhancing border security and saving the government up to $1 billion over 10 years.

“The need for a modern pay schedule that provides stability for Agents and their families is something I hear about every time I visit the border,” said Tester, whose state shares a 545-mile border with Canada. “Establishing a new pay schedule will make our borders more secure and save taxpayers money.”

At today’s hearing, Tester’s bill – which is co-sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) – was hailed by leaders on all sides of the issue, including representatives from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the National Border Patrol Council.

“We are probably the first labor organization to come before this Committee asking for a pay cut,” said Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council. “My Agents are asking you to do this because ensuring proper manpower, stability and safety are worth the trade.”

Tester and McCain introduced their bill last November in the wake of a government report that shows Homeland Security employees have been abusing a fund meant to compensate workers who must sometimes stay on duty beyond normal business hours, such as law enforcement officers responding to criminal activity.

It is estimated that the practice is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Tester’s legislation allows Border Patrol Agents to choose between three pay schedule options and work either 100 hours (20 hours of overtime), 90 hours (10 hours of overtime), or 80 hours (no overtime) per pay period.

“If enacted, the bill would provide the necessary tools to ensure that a Border Patrol Agent is available to continue work and meet mission requirements,” said Ronald Vitello, Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol. “We thank the Committee for developing legislation to address CBP’s needs for a cost-efficient and equitable overtime compensation system that would meet the needs of a 21st century border.”

The Border Patrol, an arm of the Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection, employs more than 21,000 Border Patrol Agents. The agents’ current pay system was established more than 40 years ago.

Tester, a member of the Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce, held a hearing in December to examine the overtime abuse issue. Today’s hearing was called to build momentum and answer questions about his Border Patrol Agent bill.

The Senators’ bipartisan bill, which is also co-sponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Heidi Heikamp (D-N.D.), is available online HERE. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives.