Romney again targets federal compensation, jobs

Mary Altaffer/AP

Mitt Romney again said he would reduce the compensation of federal employees and shrink the government workforce if he’s elected president, during a recent interview with Fortune magazine.

The GOP candidate told the publication in an Aug. 2 interview that 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,” he said.

On his campaign website, Romney claims federal compensation exceeds private sector compensation “by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account. This must be corrected.” In July, the Obama campaign blasted the Romney camp for the proposal, saying the GOP candidate wanted to cut feds’ pay by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent. The Romney campaign disputed that characterization, saying reductions to benefits such as health care and student loan repayments would be on the table as well as pay.

Romney, who forfeited his salary as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, also told Fortune that he would shrink the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition. On his campaign website, he said he would replace every two government workers who leave with one new hire, claiming attrition would save the government $4 billion. Romney again mentioned during the interview his desire to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak, the Public Broadcasting Service and the National Endowment for the Arts.

This isn’t the first time the GOP candidate has taken aim at the federal government. In a November 2011 speech at a manufacturing plant in Dubuque, Iowa, he told workers there, “the taxpayers shouldn’t have to have money taken out of their paychecks to pay people in government, who are our servants, who are making a lot more money than we are.” And he told campaign donors during an April 2012 closed-door fundraiser in Florida that he intended to restructure the bureaucracy, in remarks that were overheard by reporters outside the event. “I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them,” Romney said, according to a report from NBC’s Garrett Haake. “Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go. Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”

Romney’s GOP running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, favors shrinking the government workforce as well as extending the current civilian pay freeze and increasing the amount federal workers contribute to their pensions. In May, the House voted to approve a Ryan-backed bill that requires current federal workers to pay 5 percent more toward their retirement, with the increase introduced incrementally over the next five years, beginning in 2013. Members of Congress enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System would have to contribute an additional 8.5 percent to their defined benefit plan, with the hike added during the same time period. Federal employees hired after 2012 would begin contributing the additional 5 percent immediately.

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