Ryan’s plans on pay, benefits will be Romney's too, critics say

Rep. Paul Ryan Rep. Paul Ryan Mary Altaffer/AP

Critics of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals to freeze federal pay, reduce benefits and shrink the workforce also fear these same ideas could become Romney administration policy now that the House Budget Committee chairman has been tapped as the vice presidential candidate.

“We think the choice of Ryan, with his extremely specific anti-federal employee budget proposals, makes it crystal clear that the Ryan budget will be the plan for the Romney administration,” said Beth Moten, legislative and political director of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., characterized Ryan's budget in even starker terms: “It represents a full-scale assault on federal civil servants,” he said. “You’ve seen this repeatedly in the Republican House . . . at every turn, they want to gut compensation for federal workers.”

As the chief architect of the House Republicans fiscal 2013 budget proposal, Ryan proposed extending the current federal pay freeze through 2015, cutting the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition and increasing employee contributions to retirement plans. Ryan says this would save taxpayers approximately $386 billion over 10 years.

In May, the House passed a bill backed by Ryan that would require current federal workers to pay 5 percent more toward their retirement, with the increase scheduled to be introduced incrementally over the next five years, beginning in 2013, except for employees hired after 2012, who would begin contributing the additional 5 percent immediately.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s own positions on federal workforce issues so far have been less detailed. He has spoken vaguely about the “unfairness of government workers getting better pay and benefits than the taxpayers they serve,” and the Obama camp has warned Romney’s broad principles would mean a federal pay cut of as much as 40 percent.

By selecting budget hawk Ryan as his running mate, however, Romney has effectively codified his policy positions on federal workforce issues, Van Hollen said.

“I think it’s now become the Ryan-Romney plan,” He told Government Executive. “Mitt Romney has now firmly tethered himself to the Ryan House Republican budget.”

The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the time this story was published.

Senior Executives Association President Carol A. Bonosaro hesitated to project whether the Ryan budget would become part of Romney’s platform, but noted “some of his proposals have already had some traction in Congress.”

Ryan’s budget proposal does acknowledge the “important work” of the federal workforce, but also cites figures suggesting public employee’s make more than those in the private sector and calls feds’ compensation “immune from the effects of the recession” -- a charge that National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called alarming.

“The selection of Rep. Ryan as vice presidential nominee is a troubling indication that a Romney presidency would drastically cut federal jobs, benefits and the services federal employees provide to the American people,” Kelley said. “Each of these issues was championed by Rep. Ryan and his budget.”

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