Feds Air Budget Beefs

Advocates for federal employees went to Capitol Hill yesterday to protest the Clinton Administration's proposal to cut $6.25 billion in civil service benefits.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on the Civil Service held a hearing to allow the leaders of federal employee and retiree groups to speak out against cuts to employee and retiree benefits proposed by President Clinton in his fiscal 1998 budget plan.

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Robert Tobias told the subcommittee that employee benefit cuts and pay increase delays amount to $220 billion over the last 20 years.

"I believe federal employees and retirees have already contributed more than their fair share," Tobias said.

President Clinton's budget proposal calls for a 2.3 percent pay increase for federal employees next year. Employee groups have said that is not enough. They argue that the Clinton Administration is failing to implement the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, which mandates that the pay gap between federal and non-federal salaries be closed over time. Private sector workers make 30 percent more than their federal counterparts, a government board found by using Department of Labor statistics.

The Clinton Administration disputes the methodology used to arrive at the 30 percent figure and has used a loophole in the act to avoid large federal pay raises.

This year's budget plan also calls for increased agency and employee contributions to retirement funds and delays retirees' annual cost-of-living adjustment from January, when Social Security beneficiaries and military retirees receive theirs, to April.

Representatives of NTEU, the Federal Managers Association, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and two postal unions testified against Clinton's proposals.

Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., whose districts are densely populated with federal employees, also made statements against Clinton's proposals.

"Over the last several years, federal retirees and employees have been forced to bear a disproportionate share of deficit reduction," Morella said. Morella is the sponsor of a "sense of Congress" resolution that denounces the COLA delay for federal retirees. So far, 40 representatives have signed on to the measure, which would not be binding but could be a useful political tool later in the budget process.

Davis said the federal community should not be "singled out" in the deficit reduction process.

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