GOP endorses fed pay overhaul, smaller workforce

Scott Iskowitz/AP

A draft version of the Republican Party’s policy platform calls for restructuring federal pay and benefits and shrinking the government workforce through attrition.

The document, posted online by Politico, praises federal workers for their dedication and “the difficulty of their thankless task of implementing poorly drafted or open-ended legislation,” but said the government is too bloated and that federal pay and benefits are out of whack with the private sector. It proposes cutting the federal workforce through attrition by at least 10 percent and adjusting federal compensation to reflect private sector pay and benefits. “The federal pay system should be sufficiently flexible to acknowledge and reward those who dare to innovate, reduce overhead, optimize processes, and expedite paperwork,” the document stated.

The platform said the federal government has grown by at least 140,000 workers during the Obama administration and the number of employees earning at least $150,000 has doubled. According to the Office of Personnel Management, there were 1.9 million government employees in September 2008, before Obama was elected president, and 2.1 million federal workers as of March 2012. There were about 1.8 million federal employees in September 1998; the government workforce increased after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in part because of the creation of the Homeland Security Department.

The document reflects what Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has said regarding the government workforce on the campaign trail. In an August interview with Fortune magazine, the GOP candidate said he wants to tie the pay and benefits of federal workers to compensation packages in the private sector, which he says would save $47 billion annually. “I don’t think government workers should be paid a better deal than taxpayers who are paying for them,” Romney told the magazine.

The GOP platform also said “delinquency in paying taxes and repaying student loans has been too common in some segments of the civil service.” The document said a Republican administration would not appoint any public official who has “failed to meet their financial obligations to the government and fellow taxpayers.” Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would allow the government to fire federal employees who fail to pay their taxes and prohibits the government from hiring job applicants with seriously delinquent tax debt. Under current law, Internal Revenue Service employees can be fired for failing to pay their taxes. According to an IRS report, more than 98,000 federal civilian employees owed more than $1 billion in unpaid federal income taxes in 2010, while retired civilians had a tax delinquency tab of $470 million. Still, federal workers have a better compliance rate than the general public: More than 96 percent of feds pay their taxes on time and do not owe the government money.

The draft document from the GOP also called for overhauling the Postal Service, specifically mentioning the agency’s “seriously underfunded pension system” and the need to explore a greater role for the private sector in mail processing. In addition, the platform called the Transportation Security Administration “a massive bureaucracy of 65,000 employees who seem to be accountable to no one for the way they treat travelers” and recommended the private sector take over airport screening “wherever feasible.”

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