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Congress takes up federal employee pay, retirement proposals

Both sides of the Capitol on Wednesday took up budget measures with provisions of direct importance to federal employee pocketbooks.

Capitol Fall

The Senate began floor consideration of a “continuing resolution” to provide agency funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year that ends September 30, while the House Budget Committee started debate on a budget plan for the budget year that begins the next day.

The Senate measure is needed to prevent a partial government shutdown after temporary funding expires March 27. Like a counterpart bill passed earlier by the House, it denies a 0.5 percent federal employee raise that otherwise is scheduled to take effect in April.

Salary rates have not increased since the most recent of what traditionally were annual raises was paid in January 2010. However, raises for individuals still can be paid on promotion, for performance, or on advancement within a pay grade, for those eligible.

Both versions also would allow agencies to move some money among accounts to lessen the impact of sequestration spending cuts that started this month that threaten employees of many agencies with unpaid furloughs starting within several weeks. The Senate bill provides greater potential for relief than the House bill.

A Senate floor vote is not expected until Thursday.

The “budget resolution” before the House committee meanwhile calls for federal employees to contribute more than an additional 5 percentage points toward their retirement benefits. It also seeks to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent through 2015 by attrition.

Unlike similar past plans by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), it does not specifically recommend continuing the freeze on federal salary rates but terms federal employees over-compensated and it sets savings targets beyond the level that the retirement contributions increase alone would achieve.

In advance of the vote, committee Democrats released a report criticizing the  provisions affecting federal employees.

“For the purpose of paying down the deficit, the Republican budget adds to the $103 billion financial burden already shouldered by federal employees in previously‐enacted deficit reduction bills,” it says. “The resolution calls for reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent and requiring higher pension contributions of each remaining employee – effectively an additional pay cut. Federal workers are hardworking, middle class Americans who are struggling through difficult times and yet no one group has been asked to contribute more to deficit reduction.”

The committee’s debate, which was to continue through the day, came as the Senate counterpart panel prepared to release its own version Wednesday afternoon that was not expected to target federal compensation or job levels.

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