Current and retired government workers have a major stake in the Senate-House budget conference that begins next week. It will attempt to settle major differences in budgets each side has approved. They are trying to come up with a compromise spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in October.
Both budget proposals call for a federal pay freeze next year. But from that point on, they are miles apart.
The Senate also wants to freeze cost-of-living adjustments during 1985 for persons under Social Security and federal, postal and military retirees. The House would permit full COLAs next year, with savings coming instead from a freeze in the defense budget.
The Senate would also force federal and postal employes to fund more of their retirement benefits. It would raise postal workers' retirement contributions next year from 7 percent to 9 percent. That increase would hit white-collar civil servants in 1987.
Although the Senate budget makes no mention of raising the federal retirement age (from 55 to 65), it does call for "unspecified" cuts in the pension program, a term that makes federal and postal union leaders very nervous.
Last week Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) and Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) blasted the House budget plan for failing to "undertake fundamental pension and other domestic program reforms," including the proposed Senate COLA freeze.