The Republican majority in the House views the federal workforce as “almost a sole payer for things they want to do,” according to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Hoyer is the second-ranking Democrat in the House, and his Maryland district is home to thousands of federal workers. He made his comments in an interview after a deal by congressional negotiators that would require new federal employees to pay more for retirement benefits than do current workers.
“In this bill that is being proposed on the payroll tax cut , the unemployment insurance and the so-called doc fix, federal employees are the only individuals being targeted to make a contribution toward paying for this,” Hoyer said. “No millionaires are being asked to pay. No oil companies are being asked to pay.”
The increased payroll contributions are part of a deal that would extend unemployment insurance, continue the payroll tax holiday and prevent a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, but funds from the increased pension contributions would be used specifically for the unemployment insurance.
Hoyer noted that federal workers are already contributing $60 billion over 10 years through the current two-year freeze on basic federal pay rates. The agreement would generate $15 billion in government savings, which means the sacrifice of federal workers would become $75 billion.
Hoyer is concerned that repeatedly taking money from those workers will hurt the government’s ability to recruit and retain them.
“We need really good people to come to public service, and quite frankly they are not going to come to public service if they believe the Congress and the president of the United States are going to, on a regular basis, propose undercutting their pay and benefits,” he said.
Hoyer would like President Obama to speak more forcefully on behalf of government staffers.
“I think the White house and the president should make this message clearer and more understandable to the American public,” Hoyer added. “The federal employees are patriotic Americans who are willing and who have participated in trying to get a handle on the fiscal challenges that confronts us. But they can’t do it alone, nor should they do it alone.”
The president’s budget calls on federal employees to increase their retirement contributions by 1.2 percent of their salaries over three years. But that proposal is part of a balanced approach, Hoyer said.
Targeting federal workers only, Hoyer added, is “not fair, it’s not good public policy and it undermines our ability to recruit and retain good people.”