Gerry Connolly: Continued attacks on feds could trigger crisis

Anti-government sentiments lower morale among federal employees and make it harder to recruit new talent, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Recent attacks on federal pay and benefits, coupled with the permeating rhetoric casting the government as bloated and underperforming, could lead to a crisis among federal employees and have a crushing impact on morale, one congressman warns. 

In a Feb. 23 interview with Federal Computer Week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) discussed the sacrifices the federal workforce has made in times of budget cuts and what’s likely to happen to government employees beyond 2012.

“It is truly unprecedented that Congress has chosen the federal worker as the place for sacrifice,” Connolly said. “We’ve now frozen federal pay for three years in a row, or will have, contributing $90 billion toward the debt. No other group in America has been asked to make a comparable sacrifice.”

The pay roll tax extension bill will require an additional $15 billion from the federal workforce through changes in the pension program, which means the government workforce will “pay more and get less,” Connolly said.

The pending transportation bill would also carve out $40 billion from new and existing federal employees. If the act gets passed, federal workers would see a 300 percent spike in how much they pay toward their pensions, while their benefits get reduced by 40 percent, Connolly said.   

“Three different bills in just the last two weeks, targeting federal employees,” he said. “This is going to have a devastating effect on morale, productivity and our ability to recruit the workforce in the future.”

Connolly serves on the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. He is ranking member of the committee's subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform, and also serves on its subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, US Postal Service [and] Labor Policy.

With the baby boomers retiring in the next decade or so, the public sector is positioning itself to attract new talent -- a challenge itself amid the rising antigovernment sentiments, Connolly said.

“How are we going to recruit a skilled workforce when you’re disparaging public service in general, when you’re negatively characterizing attributes of federal service and the federal worker?” he asked.

When asked to look beyond the lame-duck season for what’s next for government employees, Connolly said the best-case scenario would entail less political rhetoric and an improved fiscal situation with lower unemployment rates.

“If that happens, I think there’s less pressure and at some point the next Congress says, ‘All right, all right you’ve made your point. The economy is improving and we can afford now after three years to throw a bone to the federal workforce.’”

The worst-case scenario, however, would mean that Congress continues “to treat the federal workforce as this pincushion and goes to them for exacting almost punitive savings,” Connolly said.

Watch for more from our exclusive interview with Rep. Gerry Connolly, coming soon.
 

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