GOP budget plan keeps federal workforce in the crosshairs

The second salvo in the fiscal 2013 budget battle has been launched. The GOP has released its budget proposal, a contrast to President Barack Obama's request released in February. The stage is now set for Congressional wrangling over which parts of the proposals to actually pass as part of the next fiscal year's budget.

The Republican proposal, which Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wisc), released on March 20, includes spending cuts aimed at reducing the deficit, including extending the current freeze on federal employees' salaries through 2015 and reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent. Obama's budget would end the pay freeze and give a small (0.5 percent) raise to civilian federal employees.

"The reforms called for in this budget aim to slow the federal government's unsustainable growth and reflect the growing frustration of workers across the country at the privileged rules enjoyed by government employees," reads a line in the budget document.

In the proposal, Ryan recommends boosting the private sector by slowing the growth of the public sector. The government has hired 147,000 new workers since Obama took office in 2009, according to the budget. 

To Ryan, “it’s no coincidence that private-sector employment continues to grow only sluggishly while the government expands," according to the proposal. He notes that the government needs a strong workforce and federal workers need equitable pay for the work they do. However, he said employees’ pay increases and fringe benefits need reforms to better align with the private-sector counterparts.

As is usual in partisan politics, the other political party opposes much of Ryan's proposal. “They provide a gilded path to prosperity for the already wealthy, while leaving working Americans and future generations behind,” Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement.

The debate over comparing compensation and salaries and benefits between the public and private sectors has been going on in the government for some time. Each side of the debate points to their chosen analyses to support their arguments. In this proposal, Ryan cites a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released in January that said federal employees are compensated on average 16 percent higher than comparable private-sector employees.

“Immune from the effects of the recession, federal workers have received regular salary bumps regardless of productivity or economic realities,” Ryan wrote.

The two-year pay freeze that federal employees are under hasn’t stopped all pay raises. The Office of Personnel Management reported in December 2010 that promotions, in-grade step increases and other individually based pay increases, such as bonuses, have not been affected. 

Extending the pay freeze and letting the workforce shrink through attrition will save an estimated $268 billion over 10 years, according to the GOP budget.

The budget’s proposed reforms also target the government’s improper payments to companies and individuals, an effort the Obama administration has tackled since 2009. In addition, it includes measures aimed at duplicative programs. Congressional authorizing committees, which oversee various departments and agencies, would provide the House Budget Committee with areas in which to reduce spending on wasteful and out-of-date programs. The House Budget Committee writes the federal budget. The recommendations would also go online for transparency’s sake.

The workforce measures had been anticipated earlier, but details were sketchy.

Read the full budget proposal here. If you see something in the budget plan that FCW's readers need to know, tell us in the comments.

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Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 kj

@George. Your miseading of people is exactly what needs to stop. Steps ARE salary increases. You get more pay. It's that simple. Nothing more, nothing less. Most feds ARE getting step (salary) increases. Only those maxed out in any grade (even low grades) are frozen. Most are not maxed out. For those out there that are not feds, I'm a long time fed. I know what I'm talking about.

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 kj

@Mimi. No I am not mistaken. I, too, am a fed and maxed out within my pay grade. I'm not a senior manager like yourself. I also have two kids in college with one income earner for my family. I have strained as you have. I was maxed out in 2007 and when the President agreed to a 2 year freeze, it hit me very hard and does every day. BUT, most around me and in the federal workforce are NOT maxed out and as such are receiving step increases in their salary. Some are caught more than others since the step times are 1, 2, or 3 years apart. However, only those maxed out are truly frozen in salary and I hate it. @Truth, you hit the nail on the head about the CSRS (the old fed retirement system). It was VERY lucrative and was discontinued under Reagan in 1984. But, it gives us in FERS a bad rep even when those of us hired after 1984, have much less and will now have to pay more. One last thing, am I the only one that is ticked at the President for so quickly agreeing to the freeze in the first place? Shows what he thinks of federal employees.....

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 George USA

Make no mistake about it, federal salaries ARE frozen. Yes, we still get pay step increases if they are coming to us, but that isn't a pay raise! That is simply your time in service that you are obligated to be given. Cola's are frozen, period! As a federal worker with my Cola's frozen and the price of everything going through the roof, I am compelled to get a part time job to make ends meet because of the financial setbacks this freeze has cost me. This is not a pity party for me, I'll be okay one way or the other. But if I was a newer fed worker, I'm afraid I would be shopping my talents elsewhere. Personally I don't feel very valued as a federal worker anymore, way over worked and starting to get seriously underpaid for the work I offer to the government. Watch out! I'm not the only one that feels this way. Keep cutting our "overpaid" wages and watch us walk out the door in droves!

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 FEDWorker

I don't understand the over paid statement. I took a $25,000.00 pay cut 10 years ago to become a fed and my salary has not kept pace with my civilian counterparts, who now make 2 - 3 times what I make. I also put in a lot more than 40 hours a week to ensure cybersecurity in the Federal government. Congress should look at their salary and benefits before taking it out on the Federal work force.

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 Robert Warner Robins, GA

"Folks need to understand, most feds salaries are not frozen. Promotions and steps are continuing as stated in the article. Only those maxed out within their grade are frozen. Most are not maxed out. Federal employees, please stop trying to make people believe your salary is frozen, when it's not" Hey doofus, Please STOP trying to make people believe you know what you're talking about, because you don't. People are stupid if they believe what legislators say about my Federal salary and benefits. Look who's talking this hype - the non-performing, highly paid, priveleged Congress. Get a clue. You aren't seeing any of them give anything up, are you?

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