Federal workers dodged several bullets in the 2011 budget finally passed last week, but a top House Republican says that the GOP’s 2012 budget would cut about $375 billion in federal workforce costs in the next decade.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the savings in the 2012 budget passed by the House last week would happen by enacting several reforms, including an extension of the federal pay freeze through 2015, requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement plans and cutting the size of the workforce by 10 percent by replacing every three departing workers with just one new employee. Savings would also come by ending periodic step increases, a perk enjoyed by about 20 percent of feds as they are promoted through the General Schedule. Issa’s office has argued that feds receive the bonuses mostly for seniority, and not performance reasons.
The workforce cuts included in the budget were first proposed by the bipartisan fiscal commission chaired by former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson.
A close examination of the GOP budget written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yields some interesting details worth noting:
— Republicans now appear to agree that the government has added 155,000 new workers since President Obama took office. That's down from an estimate by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who said in February that the government had added about 200,000 workers, but some of his colleagues were using other figures. Official government numbers suggest the headcount increased by 169,000 from Dec. 2008 — one month before Obama took office — and Sept. 2010.
— Regarding salaries, Ryan states that “Federal workers deserve to be compensated for their important work, but pay levels, pay increases and beneﬁt packages need to be reformed to be in line with the private sector.” Federal salaries averaged $74,311 in 2010, compared to $49,777 for private-sector wages, according to Ryan. The federal pay package jumps to an average of $101,628 when he includes government’s “generous beneﬁt packages” in the tally. Remember, however, that the Obama administration and federal worker unions dispute blanket “apples to oranges” comparisons between federal and private-sector pay.
— Trimming the federal workforce would happen through “a gradual, sensible attrition policy” that would somehow require federal agencies to hire only new worker for every three departing employees. But nobody has yet specifically propose how this would happen: Would an agency have to wait until three people decide to quit or retire before determining when to hire replacements? Would they set a hard number at the beginning of the year and not exceed it if more people than expected retire? Despite the lack of specifics, the GOP estimates that their plan would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2014.
What do you think? Are these good or bad ideas? Do you have others? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.