WASHINGTON – Washington-area Democrats in Congress attacked Republican budget proposals Friday that they say unfairly target pay and benefits of federal workers.
A House GOP bill would raise federal employees’ pension contributions from 7 percent to 7.5 percent over three years.
It would also delay cost-of-living increases for three months in each of the next seven years. The raises would take effect in April rather than January.
“Federal employees are the cash cow to pay, in part, for $245 billion in tax cuts,” Rep. Steny Hoyer of Mitchellville said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Democratic lawmakers from Maryland, Virginia and the District also criticized a Republican proposal to require federal employees to pay the market rate for work place parking.
Hoyer was joined by Reps. Albert Wynn of Largo and James Moran of Alexandria and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Using a mannequin as a prop to help make their point, each lawmaker tore off a piece of clothing, representing what they called Republican attempts to “take the shirt off the back of federal employees.”
But Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said he and his Republican colleagues in the area worked hard to make sure the changes would be minimal. He said they should be acceptable to federal employees.
“What did they expect?” Gilchrest asked of his Democratic colleagues.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said in a statement that federal workers “are also citizens and taxpayers” who will “look at the big picture” and support attempts to reduce the deficit.
Even with the proposed changes, benefits and pensions for federal workers “will remain much more generous than what’s offered in the private sector,” Bartlett said.
Norton ridiculed Washington-area Republicans’ efforts to minimize the blows to federal workers.
“It does not help to be a Republican in this region. They don’t have an effect on the Republican leadership,” she said. “They as Republicans have been able to do nothing for federal workers.”
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, countered that fellow Republicans failed to move the proposed pension changes out of the civil service reform committee of which she and Moran are members, “because we have that kind of clout.”
Outlining their specific criticisms, Democratic lawmakers said federal employees would contribute an additional $950 to their pensions under a seven-year deficit reduction plan being crafted by the Republican majority.
George Nesterczuk, staff director of the House civil service subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, argued that an additional $950 in employee pension contributions is tiny in the context of $280,000 in earnings for an average federal employee over seven years.
The Democrats said federal workers would lose an average of $1,000 in the same seven years due to the delayed cost-of-living pension increases.
Nesterczuk said the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1994 imposed a three-month delay in cost-of-living increases in federal pensions. He criticized them for now faulting Republicans who want to extend the delay.
The Democratic lawmakers also said market rate costs for parking would cost employees about $1,800 a year.
Nesterczuk said the proposal would raise about $790 million over seven years. Hoyer said he will support a Democratic alternative to the Republican budget bill. Democrats are waiting for a final budget document before producing one of their own, said Marc Kimball, a spokesman for the Democratic minority on the House Budget Committee. -30-