Lawmaker pushes extension of pay freeze, workforce cuts

A GOP lawmaker is proposing cuts to federal employee pay and jobs to improve the government's finances.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Monday unveiled a $9 trillion deficit reduction plan that would extend the current civilian pay freeze, reduce leave benefits and trim the workforce in an effort to cut government spending. The proposal builds on a number of fiscal commission recommendations introduced late last year.

"Real choices must be made to reduce spending, increase revenues, or both," Coburn wrote in the report. "Everyone is going to feel a pinch. For some it may be a sting. Everyone will be asked to do more with less. This includes members of Congress, government employees and contractors, millionaires, and even the White House and Pentagon."

Coburn has rejoined the bipartisan Gang of Six senators presenting President Obama with deficit reduction ideas, but his office did not respond to calls for comment on how the proposal introduced on Monday would impact his participation in those negotiations.

Monday's proposal outlines a number of cuts affecting the federal workforce:

  • Extend the two-year freeze on civilian employee pay for an additional year and limit performance awards and recruitment, retention and relocation bonuses during this period.
  • Freeze locality pay for five years.
  • Prohibit rehired annuitants from receiving a full salary in addition to pension payments.
  • Prohibit federal workers from carrying over unused sick leave from one year to the next.
  • Allow employees to carry over half of their unused annual leave and cap vacation at 30 days annually.
  • Use the "chained CPI" method, which takes into account changes in purchasing habits as prices change, to calculate cost-of-living adjustments.
  • Cut the government workforce by 15 percent, or 300,000 jobs, over 10 years by hiring two employees for every three who leave federal service.
  • Use attrition to reduce the Defense Department civilian workforce by 5 percent beginning in 2014.

The plan also recommends changes to TRICARE benefits for military retirees. Working-age annuitants would be ineligible for TRICARE Prime coverage and would see an increase in monthly fees, totaling about $2,000 annually for individuals and $3,000 per year for families. Retirees also would see monthly prescription costs jump from $3 to $15 for generic drugs and $9 to $25 for brand-name drugs. Those eligible for Medicare would be required to meet minimum out-of-pocket co-payments before receiving TRICARE coverage. These changes would save $174 billion over 10 years, according to the report.

Coburn also proposed a 15 percent reduction in contractor positions; a 75 percent cut in agency travel budgets; a $100 million annual limit on spending for training conferences; and a restructuring of federal employment agencies, including the Federal Labor Relations Authority, Merit Systems Protection Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Office of Government Ethics under the umbrella of the Office of Personnel Management.

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