Federal employee unions are blasting a Senate Republican plan that would take money from government workers to cover the cost of extending the payroll tax cut.

Legislation proposed by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would, among other provisions, add three years to the two-year federal pay freeze. Instead of the freeze ending Dec. 31, 2012, it would go through 2015. Heller said his plan is “treating taxpayers’ dollars responsibly.”

Heller’s bill also would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition. The legislation says “the head of each agency may hire no more than 1 employee in that agency for every 3 full-time employees who leave employment in that agency.” The bill allows for exemptions in cases of national security and other emergencies.

Federal labor organizations quickly denounced the Republican effort.

National Federation of Federal Employees President William R. Dougan said it is “absolutely unacceptable.”

“It is despicable that our elected representatives in Washington would propose taking thousands from the pockets of VA nurses, border patrol agents and food safety inspectors simply to protect a small group of millionaires and billionaires,” he added.

The American Federation of Government Employees urged Congress to reject the proposal. “Not only are federal employees facing layoffs and downsizing due to shrinking agency budgets, they have already been subjected to a two-year pay freeze,” Beth Moten, AFGE’s legislative director, said in a letter to senators.

She reminded them that the pay freeze is costing federal workers $60 billion over 10 years.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, contrasted the Republican proposal with the Democrats’ plan to impose a small tax on millionaires.

“This proposal makes clear that Senate Republicans stand firmly on the side of the wealthiest Americans and are turning their backs on middle-class families ... ” Kelley said. “Continually freezing federal pay farther and farther into the future and cutting agencies that provide needed services to the public without asking the wealthiest Americans to share in the sacrifice at all is not what the majority of Americans support.”

And Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), whose suburban Maryland district is home to many federal employees, called the Republican payroll tax proposal “another cynical ploy to single out federal employees for unfair treatment.”


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