Lawmakers push extended pay freeze, increased pension contributions

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are calling on the deficit-reduction super committee to make further cuts to federal pay and benefits.

Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Friday sent a letter asking the commission charged with reining in government spending to consider additional reductions in federal hiring, pay and retirement benefits. Lawmakers recommended cutting the workforce by 10 percent through attrition, hiring one new worker for every three who leave, extending the two-year civilian pay freeze for an additional three years and eliminating step increases. In addition, committee members are calling for reforms to the civilian pension system, including:

  • Moving from a high-three to a high-five calculation.
  • Raising the Federal Employees Retirement System contribution by 6.2 percent.
  • Increasing the Civil Service Retirement System contribution from 7 percent to 10 percent beginning in 2013.
  • Eliminating FERS for new hires, instead creating a defined contribution option to supplement the Thrift Savings Plan.
  • Limiting the FERS minimum supplement to employees subject to mandatory retirement.

The proposals together would save $375 billion over 10 years, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in the letter.

A bipartisan group of senators also is calling on the super committee to cut back on federal compensation. In a letter Friday, Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote that federal employees must make sacrifices in order to get government spending under control. Proposals include extending the pay freeze for one additional year and increasing pension contributions by 1.2 percent. The letter does not recommend limitations on hiring, calling instead for capping appropriations to force lower spending on personnel and missions.

The Senate letter also recommends that the super committee consider moving to high-five pension calculations without forcing early retirements, streamlining pharmacy benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, capping contractor pay and reforming the federal workers' compensation program.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called the Senate proposal counterproductive.

"The results would be to degrade the quality and availability of services the American people expect and depend on, put serious roadblocks in the way of agency recruitment and retention efforts, and place an unfair burden on federal workers," Kelley said in a statement.

"I am shocked at what these elected officials have done to federal employees, while doing little to curb the massive taxpayer funded bailouts to government contractors," said American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage in a statement. "Federal employees have sacrificed more than any other group, giving up two years of pay increases to help lower the country's deficit. It's time to pass the hat and ask others to pay their fair share."

House Democrats earlier this week submitted their own set of recommendations to the super committee. Their report cautioned against further attacks on federal employees, instead calling for extended caps on contractor salaries.

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