President Carter's new budget prompted a woman who works in a government building on Independence Avenue to say yesterday that she is organizing a Scapegoats Anonymous Club (SAC) "to help us cope with politicians who take out their frustrations on our paychecks."
Carter proposed to hold federal workers to a 5.5 percent pay raise for the second year in a row, cut the number of federal jobs by more than 20,000 and cut back some health and pension benefits. The budget also alludes to his plan to "reform and improve" the procedures by which federal workers' pay is determined, a legislative package that could be announced within the next week or two, officials say.
Spokesmen for federal employes unions and their supporters in Congress called the proposed pay-raise limit "unfair" and "incredible."
The budget is a "masquerade" that only appears to save on personnel costs while actually shifting those costs to the hidden realm of contract employes who are not included in the federal payroll, according to a spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal workers' union.
Not so, responded an administration expert. These are "real cuts, not a dodge," he said, "though I can't assure you that some agency won't try to use that dodge (contracting out work) if they can find the money."
"If there's a better way to destroy the morale of federal employes than this, I don't know what it is," said Rep. Herbert Harris (D-Va.) of the budget proposals concerning federal personnel.
Total civilian federal employment is nearly 2 million, not counting the U.S. Postal Service. About 350,000 of those people live in the Washington area.
Harris and others noted that, by the administration's own estimates, the second pay-raise cap will put federal workers about 10.25 percent behind private sector workers in income, based on a complicated pay formula.
Carter administration officials have expressed the view that most federal workers are overpaid and that the current pay-setting system gives them costly advantages that should be curtailed.
Union leaders last year walked out of the pay-setting process in protest of the president's policies and, according to a spokesman, have no intention of returning until the president lifts the cap on federal raises.
"This administration has made no attempt to address the real question of who is actually driving up the cost of government," the AFGE spokesman said. "The number of federal employes hasn't risen, and the overall cost of federal employment hasn't risen as a percentage of the budget."