May 19, 2011Barely a day goes by that a new proposal doesn't emerge targeting federal pay and benefits as a way to reduce the deficit. In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of them, though both supporters and opponents remain helpfully vocal on the subject.
"I believe that these proposals do two things: deliberately make the federal employee a scapegoat for federal debt and deficit spending, and [they're] designed to demoralize that workforce," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., during a Wednesday conference call with reporters, union representatives and a longtime federal employee.
Connolly said he believes it's fair to "put everything on the table," but that the current political climate undermines honest dialogue and negotiation. "We have reason not to trust [Republicans'] motivation to look for savings," Connolly said.
But is trust the issue? Or is it really about fundamental, philosophical differences related to the size of government and the fact that, among the myriad sacred cows both parties fiercely protect, cutting federal pay and benefits offers a path of least resistance?
The Obama administration reportedly is open to the idea of requiring federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plans, though not necessarily at the same rate or pace as GOP proposals envision. The president was the driving force behind the two-year federal pay freeze, though he takes pains to emphasize at every opportunity what a difficult decision that was for him to make.
So far, the two-year pay freeze on federal civilian salaries is the only significant recommendation that has become reality. The others are just proposals at this stage. As Connolly put it, "It's way too early to say what's viable or not." Here's a noncomprehensive list of ideas related to federal pay and benefits being kicked around by elected officials hoping to whittle down the deficit:
May 19, 2011