House Majority Passes Budget Bill Targeting Federal Pay, Retirement; Democrats Unanimously Oppose
Friday, House Republicans passed a budget plan for fiscal year 2012 with all but four Republicans and without the support of a single Democrat. The budget includes provisions that would freeze federal employees’ pay through 2015, require federal employees to contribute much more to their retirement plans, and reduce the federal workforce 10 percent by 2014 through “a gradual…attrition policy” which would limit agencies’ ability to hire by replacing every three retirees with only one new hire. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) claims the changes would save $375 billion over ten years and bring federal employee compensation into line with the private sector.
Despite agencies warning that significant understaffing is already hampering their ability to carry out their missions, the measure advanced by House Republicans Friday will make the problem much worse. Though broad-based workforce reductions may sound fiscally responsible in theory, in practice they have a much more sobering reality. This proposal means hiring one doctor or nurse caring for our veterans for every three lost; one border patrol agent fighting drug and human trafficking for every three lost; one wildland firefighter saving homes and business out West for every three lost; and one passport worker who prevents international criminals and terrorists from entering our country for every three lost. These workers provide essential services to our nation, and this budget’s arbitrary attrition proposal would severely hamstring the federal government from providing carrying out its most critical missions.
Furthermore, the claim that freezing federal pay, eliminating automatic step increases and requiring federal employees to contribute more to their retirement plans would bring federal compensation into line with the private sector is intentionally misleading. Individuals who subscribe to this belief are comparing apples to oranges. In fact, employees of the federal government earn less compensation than comparable employees in the private sector.
The reality is this: House Republicans’ justification for this budget does not match the facts. This budget has nothing to do with sensibly cutting the budget, and instead makes federal employees easy scapegoats to score cheap political points. Reductions in federal employee compensation would only bring federal employees further behind their private sector counterparts than they already are, while workforce reductions would simply deprive Americans of essential services that do not need to be cut. There is a sensible approach to reducing the deficit, and there is a nonsensical approach to reducing the deficit. House Republicans voted on Friday for the nonsensical approach, and not a single House Democrat joined them.