The budget President Reagan sends Congress next month could -- for civil servants and retirees -- look like a rerun of last year's, with one big difference: the deficit reduction act.
The so-called Gramm- Rudman-Hollings act, which is now the law of the land, requires the government to make massive spending cuts in selected programs over the next five fiscal years.
Because so many big, costly programs -- portions of Defense, all of Social Security -- are exempt, budget cutters are almost certain to be drawn to the federal government's multibillion-dollar pay and pension system. It is on the cart and heading for surgery.
Under Gramm-Rudman- Hollings, the deficit must be chopped to $172 billion during this fiscal year, $108 billion by fiscal 1988, $72 billion by fiscal 1989, $36 billion by fiscal 1990 and down to zero by fiscal 1991. That's a lot of cutting.
Last February the president's budget proposed:
*A 5 percent federal pay cut. Congress instead eliminated the 1986 raise.
*A gradual rise from 55 to 65 in the government retirement age. That would save money by keeping employes on the job -- and paying into the retirement fund -- while shortening the time they would draw benefits. Congress ignored it.
*Gradual elimination of the system that allows federal workers to credit unused sick leave time toward retirement, a change the White House said would save the government $86 million by 1990. Congress ignored that, too.
*Limitation of raises for the 1.9 million federal retirees to either the rise in living costs or the percentage pay raise for federal workers, whichever is lower. Congress instead canceled the 3.1 percent raise retirees were due this month.
*Full cost-of-living adjustments on only the first $10,000 of annuity. Congress also ignored that.
All the above could be back. And they could get more attention from Congress because of the deficit reduction law.
So many members have denounced the law -- saying it will wreck the nation because it won't work, or that it will wreck the nation because it will work -- that one wonders who voted for it.
The answer is: most of them. Now they have to come back and do something with it