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Republican budget would extend pay freeze, cut 10% of workforce

Mar. 20, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
A proposal from the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., seeks to save $368 billion over 10 years by cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent, freezing pay through 2015 and increasing the amount federal employees pay toward their pensions.
A proposal from the House Budget Committee, chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., seeks to save $368 billion over 10 years by cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent, freezing pay through 2015 and increasing the amount federal employees pay toward their pensions. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

House Republicans on Tuesday proposed a fiscal 2013 budget that would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, freeze pay through 2015 and increase the amount federal employees pay toward their pensions.

The proposal, from the House Budget Committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. seeks to save $368 billion over 10 years through those cuts.

The proposal would cut the federal workforce by roughly 210,000 over three years through attrition, though Republicans say their budget would not lay off employees. Republicans say the government's growth of roughly 147,000 employees since President Obama took office is "unsustainable" and inhibits the private sector's growth by increasing debt.

To support extending the current two-year pay freeze three more years, the proposal cites the Congressional Budget Office's January report that found federal employees are compensated 16 percent higher, on average, than their private-sector counterparts. Republicans also said that federal pay has continued to increase through step increases and other promotions while the private sector continues to struggle.

"Immune from the effects of the recession, federal workers have received regular salary bumps regardless of productivity or economic realities," the proposal said. "Federal workers deserve to be compensated equitably for their important work, but their pay levels, pay increases and fringe benefits should be reformed to better align with those of their private-sector counterparts."

Ryan's budget also calls for increasing the amount federal employees contribute to their pensions. In a news conference Tuesday, Ryan told reporters federal employees should cover half the cost of their pensions. That would mean Federal Employees Retirement System employees, who now pay 0.8 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement, would instead contribute about 5.8 percent.

The American Federation of Government Employees denounced Ryan's proposal, saying that it would break promises made to federal employees and jeopardize programs and services the government provides to the public.

"It is fundamentally wrong for federal employees to be required, yet again, to serve as the Automated Teller Machine for the nation," AFGE National President John Gage said. "Enough is enough."

House Republicans are expected to call for a 2013 cap on total discretionary spending which pays for most agency operations of $1.028 trillion. That figure is $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion cap set by Congress as part of last year's deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.

In the plan released Tuesday, however, the House GOP doesn't say where it wants to set next year's discretionary spending threshold. But Senate Democrats reaffirmed they are sticking with the higher cap.

In a news release, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that House Republicans "will make it very difficult" to agree on a budget for next year if they "abandon" last year's agreement.

A Ryan spokesman had no immediate comment on Conrad's statement.

The Ryan budget plan calls for a 20 percent cut to the federal vehicle fleet, not counting vehicles owned or leased by the Defense Department and the U.S. Postal Service. That would exclude more than 60 percent of the government's fleet of some 662,000 vehicles from the reductions, based on figures from the General Services Administration's 2010 inventory, the most recent available.

Without offering details, House Republicans also propose to streamline the process for selling federal property.

Ryan has also told a half-dozen House committees including Agriculture, Ways and Means and Judiciary to come up with billions of dollars worth of ideas for cuts and other savings to cushion the impact of automatic budget cuts scheduled to kick in this January if Congress and the White House can't come up a deficit reduction plan worth at least $1.2 trillion through 2021. The House is supposed to consider those ideas in May, Ryan said at a Tuesday news conference.

sreilly@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">Sean Reilly and amedici@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">Andy Medici contributed to this story.

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