Four-Year Pay Freeze, Workforce Cuts and Other Ideas From New Presidential Contenders

Joe Belanger /

Five more presidential hopefuls have become official contenders in the last week, and with them come a slew of new ideas for reforming federal agencies and their workforces.

Three Republicans threw their hats into the ring for the 2016 race: former senator and 2012 presidential contender Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; former Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y.; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, who has served as mayor, senator and governor in Rhode Island, became the third and fourth Democrats to officially make a bid for the White House.

O’Malley and Pataki have both been eager to talk up their executive experience to demonstrate what they would do as president. The former New York governor said during a speech just before announcing his campaign that one of his first acts as president would be to reduce the size of the federal workforce “by at least 15 percent.”

“It’s too big,” Pataki said. “We have too many bureaucrats, too many federal workers. It has to be scaled back.” He said once he overturned Obamacare, reined in the Environmental Protection Agency and ended Common Core, his administration would be well on its way to meeting the 15 percent goal.

“There are those that will be saying, ‘Well you can’t do that,’ ” Pataki said. “I know we can, because when I became governor of New York I saw the same thing,” he added, noting he reduced the number of New York state employees by 25,000 -- more than 15 percent of the state’s workforce -- during his governorship.

Pataki also spoke of the need to “end the use of political government bureaucrats” at the Internal Revenue Service, which would also help to cut the size of the overall workforce. The IRS has been a familiar target for Republican candidates, and Santorum joined the chorus of those calling for its elimination during his campaign announcement. In his last presidential bid, the former Pennsylvania lawmaker also proposed doing away with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

O’Malley, meanwhile, has spoken often of the need to move toward “data-driven governance,” citing his initiatives to do so both as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor. The liberal Democrat has been trumpeting his performance benchmarking record since he was first elected governor.

“It is a system of open and transparent administration that actually sets goals and has guts to measure progress toward achieving those goals,” O’Malley said in 2007.

In a recent address at the Brookings Institution, O’Malley discussed the importance of bringing that strategy to the federal level to restore faith in government.

“The old ways of governing -- bureaucracy and hierarchy -- are fading away, and a new way is emerging,” O’Malley said. Those policies will include setting clear goals, measuring progress and “simply getting things done.”

Not surprisingly, the Republicans held a different view of the future of government. In 2012, Santorum said the federal government “kills jobs” and free people should grow the economy, not government. He has also, controversially, advocated for a larger role for religion in federal agencies.

Pataki, meanwhile, called the size of government an “enormous threat.”

“They think they have the right and ability to run our lives and tell us how to lead our lives,” he said last month.

Graham has voiced some support in recent years for the role of government in his opposition to sequestration, though his concerns rested mostly in the cuts to the Defense Department. The senator has also pushed some interesting ideas for federal pay and benefits.

In 1996, when he was first elected to the House, one of the first bills Graham authored was a measure to exempt federal agencies’ contractors from overtime compensation. As a senator in 2012, Graham cosponsored legislation to end Medicare in its current form and instead give all seniors access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. He has consistently pushed for more health care coverage for reservists. His love for all things military carried over to federal law enforcement in 2003, when he introduced a bill to ensure the group’s due process rights.

Chafee, while still a Republican, also fought for the rights of federal law enforcement officers. In 2002, the then-senator brokered a compromise bill to ensure collective bargaining rights for employees at the newly formed Homeland Security Department.

Through the group Patriot Voices, which Santorum founded three years ago, the 2012 Republican runner-up also advocated significant changes to federal employees’ compensation. His group supports a four-year pay freeze for the federal workforce. It also called for a 10 percent workforce reduction for non-Defense related feds with no compensatory increase in the contract workforce. Santorum has also endorsed phasing out the defined benefit plans for “newer” federal workers.

Chafee too has a history of calling for pension reforms, ushering through an overhaul in Rhode Island that ended former state employees’ cost-of-living adjustments and raised the retirement age.

Recent polling suggests all five of the newest contenders are long shots, but expect to hear some of these issues resurface as they look to climb above the competition. 

(Image via  /

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