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Pay freeze likely through 2013; unions blast House 2014 budget

Mar. 13, 2013 - 01:16PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Under the continuing resolution the Senate began considering Wednesday, federal employees' pay scales would be frozen for the rest of 2013.
Under the continuing resolution the Senate began considering Wednesday, federal employees’ pay scales would be frozen for the rest of 2013. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images)

Federal employees’ pay scales would be frozen for the rest of 2013 under the continuing resolution bill that the Senate began considering Wednesday.

The CR would repeal an executive order President Obama issued in December to increase employees’ pay scales by 0.5 percent at the end of March. The House last week passed its own version of the CR, which also contains a pay freeze. Pay scales have already been frozen 27 months, and this extension would make the freeze a full three years. The Senate could vote on the bill as early as Wednesday.

The fact that the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., included the pay freeze in its bill, which it released Monday, means the extended pay freeze is almost certain to be passed. Although Obama proposed the 0.5 percent pay raise, he did not mention the freeze last week in a statement expressing concern about the House CR.

And House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland last week told reporters that the pay freeze would probably stay in effect for the rest of 2013.

Federal employees have already contributed $103 billion to deficit reduction over a decade by going 27 months without a pay-scale increase and through increased pension contributions for newly hired feds. Extending the pay freeze will cost feds another $11 billion over a decade.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also released a fiscal 2014 budget proposal Tuesday that takes aim at federal employees in several areas. Ryan’s budget would:

* Cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, or roughly 210,000 employees, through attrition by 2015, which he said would save $49 billion over a decade.

* Reform federal employees’ pay levels, pay raises and benefits “to better align with those of their private-sector counterparts.” Ryan’s proposal did not say how pay and benefits should be changed.

* Increase the amounts federal employees, lawmakers and congressional staffers contribute to their pensions. Ryan said the increases should be similar to the Simpson-Bowles commission’s recommendations, which call for making employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System contribute the same amount to their pensions as federal agencies contribute. This would likely increase FERS employees’ contributions by roughly 5.5 percentage points to about 6.3 percent. Ryan said this would save $132 billion over a decade.

Federal employee unions blasted Ryan’s plan.

“The House budget released today should be an occasion for fresh outrage, even if its contents are as stale and odiferous as a garbage can holding the carcass of a dead dog,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox said.

Cox also called Ryan’s budget “extraordinarily irresponsible.”

“Cutting 10 percent of federal jobs through attrition makes absolutely no sense,” Cox said. “If all 20 aircraft mechanics at an Air Force base retire, should the Defense Department be prohibited from replacing any of them? What would the government do under the Ryan budget? Stop repairing aircraft? Or replace them with private contractors, who are both costlier and less accountable than federal employees?”

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley also said Ryan’s proposed cuts would harm the public by leaving agencies without the resources necessary to carry out their missions.

“The Ryan budget proposal would worsen our nation in so many ways,” Kelley said.

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