A Republican budget proposal to freeze the pay and retirement annuities of federal civilian and military workers for a year drew protests yesterday from area Democrats in the House, who complained such a freeze would put an unfair new burden on people who have already suffered enough under President Reagan's budget cuts.
"We socked them very badly last year, and now the president says he wants to come back and sock them again this year," said Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.).
The pay freeze, which would be for fiscal 1983, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Budget Committee Wednesday and endorsed by Reagan. House Democrats, including Barnes, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Barbara Mikulski (Md.), and Rep. Vic Fazio (Calif.), all of whom have large federal worker constituencies, called a news conference yesterday to say the new budget plan is unacceptable to them.
The budget proposal would limit federal pay increases for both civilian and military workers to 4 percent in 1984 and 1985. About 407,000 of the nation's total 3.1 million civilian and military work force are Washington area residents.
The last civilian pay raise, of 4.8 percent, was in October. The military also received pay increases in October, ranging from 10 to 17 percent. Both raises were intended to narrow the gap between federal and private-sector pay. During that same period, federal retirees received only one of two expected cost-of-living raises.
Barnes said the Republican proposal would mean no additional money for active or retired workers for at least the next 1 1/2 years, and he pointed out that civilian workers already are paying higher premiums for reduced health coverage.
Hoyer said the proposal ignored federal law calling for federal workers to receive pay comparable to private sector employes. Instead, he argued, government workers have been falling steadily behind the private sector in pay since 1978.
If they had kept pace, Hoyer said, the increases for civilian workers would have amounted to 66 percent but that federal workers have gotten less than half of that. Pay for military workers has similarly lagged, according to an aide to Fazio.
What with federal reductions-in-force, reduced health benefits and now a proposed pay freeze, "We have been and will continue at a rapid rate to lose our most able workers," Hoyer said.
Mikulski said she and others "are sick and tired" of seeing federal workers blamed for government troubles and singled out for special sacrifices. And Fazio said the Republican budget proposal constituted "an absolute double cross" for military personnel, the very people he said Reagan had promised to try to attract and keep in government service.
The area's Republican congressmen, who have thus far usually sided with the interests of federal workers in budget battles, have yet to comment on the latest Republican proposal. Rep. Frank Wolf's office did say yesterday, however, that the Northern Virginia congressman would "look long and hard" at anything that impacted on government employes.