Government workers and retirees have every reason to be frightened and angry at what the last-minute budget negotiations may do to their jobs and pensions. The options for federal workers seem bleak: furloughs or major cuts in fringe benefits.
Because of this area's heavy concentration of federal workers and retirees -- about 500,000 people -- local legislators get an earful each time some new save-a-buck, kick-a-fed plan emerges from the budget summit at Andrews Air Force Base.
Though it may make you feel better to yell at your member of Congress -- or more likely a staff member -- it doesn't help your cause. Area politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, like federal workers. They do their best to keep them happy. None of them favors pension cuts, freezes or furloughs.
The people who need to hear from federal workers are on the summit negotiating team. Whatever budget they come up with is almost certain to become law. Many readers have asked for the names of the men (there are no women in key roles) who are deciding their fate. They would also like to know who votes for proposals that will trim the federal fringe benefits package. The last may be difficult. The purpose of moving the summit to a military base was to protect negotiators from prying eyes. But here is the list of the key players at the budget summit:
Democrats: Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (Maine), House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (Wash.), Sens. Wyche Fowler Jr. (Ga.), James R. Sasser (Tenn.), Lloyd Bentsen (Tex.) and Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.), and Reps. William H. Gray III (Pa.), Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), Jamie L. Whitten (Miss.) and Leon E. Panetta (Calif.).
Republicans: Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (Kan.), House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (Ill.), Sens. Phil Gramm (Tex.), Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and Bob Packwood (Ore.), and Reps. Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Bill Frenzel (Minn.), Silvio O. Conte (Mass.) and Bill Archer (Tex.).
White House: Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady and Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget. Postal Reservists
Postal workers called to active duty with the Army National Guard or other reserve units won't have to pay any of their health insurance premiums for the first 14 weeks of military service. After that, they must resume paying their share (about 25 percent of the premium). The Postal Service will continue to pay its share of the premium for the foreseeable future. Health Insurance
Federal workers who plan to drop their health insurance coverage to save money if they are furloughed are advised not to do it. Most agencies will make arrangements to let workers readjust or defer premiums if they are in a financial bind because of the furloughs. But if you drop coverage you cannot reapply for the program until the next open season, which begins Nov. 13, and your coverage would not be effective until January 1992. Don't drop your insurance coverage!