With the failure of the supercommittee to agree on any budget cuts, where does that leave federal employees?
The Post’s Joe Davidson and Eric Yoder hosted a live Washington Post Q&A with readers Tuesday to address these concerns. The questions asked most frequently dealt with pensions, hiring freezes and the abolishment of certain government offices, among other things.
Here are four excerpts from the Q&A:
Question: “Will there be a hiring freeze?”
Davidson: “Hiring has already slowed in the federal government. I don’t know if there will be a government wide hiring freeze, but that could happen in some agencies.”
Question: “Are the pensions really on the table? Will Congress be included in this pay freeze and pension cuts?”
Yoder: “The main thing that was before the supercommittee on retirement was the idea of increasing employee contributions. That has been under more or less active consideration for nearly a year, since the Simpson-Bowles report. It's pretty safe to say that one will reappear, and possibly soon. Changing to a high-5 benefit computation base also has been circulating and the same can be said of that.
Congress already is affected by the pay freeze. Congressional raises are set under a different formula than federal raises, but there is a provision in the law stating that Congress can't get a larger raise than the GS base increase. So, when there is no GS base increase as in 2011 and 2012, there is no raise for Congress. Congress also has commonly refused raises for itself in years when a GS raise has been paid ... continue reading.”
Question: “I heard something about them getting rid of FERS altogether for folks that hadn't been with the federal government more than five years. Do you think that will happen?”
Yoder: “That was one of the options raised by Rep. Issa in his recommendations to the supercommittee. Basically, he would close out FERS. Current retirees would continue to get what they are getting, current employees would get, on retirement, what they have accumulated to the point of the change, and then only an enhanced defined contribution plan from that point on. Newly hired employees after the transition point would get only the defined contribution plan.
That would be a very major change in federal retirement policy … continue reading.”
Question: “If the Republicans win the White House and big majorities and in the House and Senate, as many are predicting, how likely is it that entire department's will be eliminated? I've heard some Republican politicians remark that about the only department they'd like to see standing is Defense.”
Davidson: “I think there would be calls from Republicans to eliminate some departments, but that would be easier said than done, even if the GOP takes both chambers and the WH. I would not be surprised if they did not eliminate any department. That's would be a very complicated thing to do.”
For more Q&A’s on how the federal workforce will be affected by the supercommittee’s inability to strike a deal, read the chat transcript.