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Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

Whoa, what a week!

Trying to boil down readers’ reactions to the recent spate of legislation calling for pay freeze extensions and cutbacks on federal retirement benefits might be best expressed by a quote frequently uttered by Popeye the Sailor (right before he blew his top) …

“I’s had all’s I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!”

Just in case you need a review, let’s take a quick look back at the last seven days or so.

There was the introduction of the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act, which uses an extension of the federal pay freeze until June 2014—and a 5 percent cut in the number of civilian feds through attrition—to avoid billions of dollars in defense budget cuts.

Then there’s the debut of the Honest Budget Act, which would forbid periodic step increases from the date of the bill’s enactment until the end of 2012.

And of course, a House committee a few days ago approved the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act, which starting in 2013 would change the employee share of contributions to retirement, introduce a high-five formula for the pension calculations of new employees, and eliminate the FERS supplement in cases of early, non-mandatory retirement.

Plus, just for good measure, the SAFE Act also was inserted this week into the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. Reason: So those savings from cutbacks to federal retirement benefits can be used to pay for transportation projects.

And maybe more we’ve just forgotten about.

But you get the picture: Even though all of these things are still proposals, they’ve given feds plenty enough to worry about. And all feds’ eyes are on Congress to see what members will come up with next.

Of course, not all members of Congress are looking to stick it to feds. Federal employees do have their outspoken champions, a lot of them lawmakers who represent fed-heavy districts in and around the national capital. Unfortunately for feds, these folks are in the minority just now in the House, where the bulk of this stuff is being hatched.

While a lot of people who make a living watching these developments believe that most of these legislative measures will meet resistance in the Senate and from the White House, at this point, who really knows anymore?

Feds might take some comfort—somewhat cold comfort—in the fact that lawmakers often over-demand—asking for everything in hopes that they will succeed in getting some small piece of it. Moreover, when legislators do get their way on that 50 percent—or even less—of what they asked for, that makes it look like a compromise.

Also keep in mind that every House seat is up for election this fall. Politicians tend to behave in an agitated fashion in election years. Perhaps more so in presidential election years. Legislative initiatives get inflated by campaign-year bluster (in addition to the regular, run-of-the-mill bluster).

The bottom line, if there is one: Don’t be surprised if you see more of the same stuff coming down the pike in the weeks and months ahead.

And remember to eat your spinach.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Feb 10, 2012 at 4:02 PM