Workforce expert: Third year of pay freeze likely to happen

The Senate killed the bill that threatened to tack an additional three years to the current two-year federal pay freeze, but government workers could still see the same sort of legislation resurrected over the next couple of months.

Introduced by Republican Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the Temporary Tax Holiday and Government Reduction Act proposed adding an extra three years to the ongoing two-year pay freeze, as well as cut the federal workforce by 10 percent by attrition by 2015. Heller called his proposal a practical solution but other lawmakers disagree, with the Senate striking down the bill Dec. 1 in a 78-20 vote.

“I’m disappointed that my colleagues have chosen to forgo a common-sense solution in order to score political points,” Heller said in a statement. “Now that this vote has been taken, it’s time to work together to ensure the payroll tax cut is extended for American workers.”

But federal employees seeing the Senate's rejection as the tiniest respite amid increasingly gloomy conditions should not expect to be out of the woods just yet, said John Palguta, vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service

“These proposals are going to keep coming up in different forms and formulations,” he said. “Frankly, there isn’t enough money to go around, and it’s going to be really difficult to get any revenue enhancements so they’re going to have to find budget reductions somewhere and it’s going to be from almost everywhere.”

An extended federal pay freeze is likely to happen, Palguta said, and proposals suggesting just that will emerge over the next couple of months. Many of the agencies’ big ticket items do not have appropriations yet, and wrangling over those and other budget reductions are issues that will be presented in the near future, he added.

“I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if we saw at least a third year of pay freeze, maybe longer” Palguta said. “I would hope that we would not see this very arbitrary meat axe approach, across-the-board cuts to the size of the workforce because it never works. It’s short-sighted and damage often occurs to program delivery.”

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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