Lawmakers propose five-year pay freeze, federal job cuts

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., touts plan as a way to begin thinning the bureaucracy. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., touts plan as a way to begin thinning the bureaucracy. Newscom
Republican lawmakers are seeking a five-year federal pay freeze and additional workforce cuts in an effort to rein in spending.

The 2011 Spending Reduction Act, unveiled on Thursday by Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.; and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; outlines $2.5 trillion in cuts by dropping current spending to fiscal 2008 levels and freezing budgets at fiscal 2006 levels for 10 years beginning Oct. 1. The legislation, which will be introduced officially on Monday, would reduce the size and cost of the federal civilian workforce and cut a number of federal programs.

"The Spending Reduction Act begins the difficult task of shrinking the federal bureaucracy that threatens our future prosperity," DeMint said. "Congress must take the steps now to balance the budget, pay off our debt and preserve freedom for future generations."

The proposal includes provisions to eliminate automatic pay increases for civilian employees for five years, cut the workforce by 15 percent through attrition and hire one new worker for every two who leave. The legislation also would collect unpaid taxes from federal workers, prohibit employees from conducting union business while on the job and cut the federal travel budget in half.

In recent weeks, lawmakers already have proposed banning union activities during work hours, cutting jobs, extending the two-year pay freeze for an additional year, and requiring two-week furloughs for federal employees.

"This has little to do with spending reduction and more to do with anti-government ideologues seizing on our nation's economic woes as an opportunity to attack not only federal employees and their unions, but also workers employed by government contractors by eliminating Davis-Bacon wage protections," said Matt Biggs, legislative and political director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. "IFPTE will work aggressively with the larger labor community, and with our friends in Congress, in opposition to these misguided attacks."

Union leaders also expressed concern about the proposal's impact on agency missions and workforce morale.

"Slashing the federal workforce by 15 percent would force agencies to contract out the work, costing taxpayers more money in the long run," American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage said. "Freezing federal pay raises for another five years would demoralize the workforce and make it even harder to attract and retain talented workers."

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called the proposal a "step backward."

"Many agencies already are struggling with insufficient resources and staffing shortages in the face of expanding workloads and expectations on the part of the American people," she said. "Even if drastic reductions such as these are ultimately not enacted into law, proposals like these get in the way of vital agency recruitment and retention efforts."

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