The House is expected to take up budget proposals tomorrow that will have an impact on every phase of federal employment, from pay raises and promotions to retirement and the size of the work force.
The House Budget Committee has approved deficit-reduction plan that would skip the raise due employes in January. Retirees, including military and persons under Social Security, would get a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 1986.
Federal and postal union lobbyists are pushing hard for the budget committee plan because it is kinder to feds and retirees than the budget tentatively approved by the Senate. But dozens of amendments and substitute budgets will be offered that could alter the House Budget Committee package.
Among them will be a Republican attempt to freeze all cost-of-living adjustments due in 1986.
Under the Senate budget, federal workers, retirees and persons under Social Security would not get any COLA next year. Federal pay would also be frozen and within-grade (longevity) raises would be delayed for one year. The Senate plan would also raise employe contributions to the federal retirement program from 7 percent to 9 percent of salary.
The Senate plan calls for unspecified cuts in federal retirement benefits that could be a foot in the door leading to a higher retirement age for U.S. employes, union lobbyists contend. Budget committee sources say that is not the intent.
Also, the Senate would require a reduction in federal employment of about 12 percent during the next three years.
The House Budget Committee plan, which can be amended on the floor, does not make any changes in the COLA schedule for federal-military retirees or increase employe contributions to the retirement fund. It also would not make any change in the timing of the longevity pay raises, worth 3 percent, that employes get every one, two or three years for satisfactory service.
Under the House plan, federal employment would reduced by only 2 percent during the next three years. The House is proposing that the government make major personnel savings by reducing the number of personal service contracts it has with private-sector firms, and keeping the work in-house in the government.
At the Democratic Caucus meeting last week some members suggested that retirement spending could be cut by giving only partial COLAs to retirees, or by giving full adjustments only on a portion of their retirement incomes.
Once the House has approved a budget, the savings assigned to federal pay-retirement programs will be referred to the Post Office-Civil Service Committee to decide just how they are to be applied. The same process will be repeated on the Senate side, with the much greater savings the Budget Committee has proposed referred to the Governmental Affairs Committee.
The key to the budget, especially for the nearly 2 million retirees and survivors, will be what Congress ultimately decides to do with Social Security. That is a political bombshell because about one in every six Americans gets a Social Security check each month.
If Congress agrees to give raises next year to Social Security recipients -- by whatever formula -- then federal retirees will probably be treated the same way. If there is a freeze on Social Security payments, retired civil servants can forget about any COLA in 1986.