WASHINGTON – Federal worker groups told a congressional panel Thursday that President Clinton’s budget unfairly targets retired civilian federal employees for delays in cost-of-living increases.
Clinton’s plan does not call for similar delays for Social Security recipients or military retirees because it is politically unpopular, the groups said.
“Throughout our budget debates, federal workers always become the whipping boy,” said Michael Styles, president of the Federal Managers Association, which represents 200,000 managers and supervisors.
The groups also asked the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on civil service to support a bill to ward off the delays. Its sponsor is Rep. Constance Morella, a Bethesda Republican.
Clinton’s budget proposes to save $1.45 billion by delaying from January until April the yearly, cost-of-living increases for all civilian federal retirees and their survivors.
This would take effect next year and continue through 2002, affecting 2.3 million retirees.
The federal retirees, who got a 2.9 percent bump in their monthly annuity checks last month, would have to wait 15 months, rather than a year, for their next round of increases. The delay means their 1998 income would be slightly lower. And their income in subsequent years would grow at a slower pace.
Rosalie Cameron, spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management, said the typical retiree would get an average of $146 less each year over the five years than they would if the delays were not implemented. She based her estimate on an average annuity of $20,446.
The delays are a good means of “deficit-reduction sharing,” and $146 is not too much to ask, Cameron said.
Magda Lynn Seymour disagreed. “They say it won’t be any skin off your nose. Well, yes it is. The cost of bread will go up, so why should these people wait?” said the communications director for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union with about 200,000 members.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the civil service subcommittee, told the groups it wasn’t enough to complain about Clinton’s proposal.
“We have to have reasonable, positive proposals for savings,” he said. “We can’t `just say no.’ ”
“If there is agreement on this committee, I think you could,” said Robert Tobias, president of The National Treasury Employees Union, which has more than 150,000 members.
Morella, whose bill would prevent Clinton’s plan from taking effect, agreed that a compromise savings plan is needed.
She said she might support a plan for a one-month delay that included Social Security recipients and military retirees.
“Fair is fair,” she said. “He is singling [federal retirees] out because it is easy.”
No member of the subcommittee spoke at the hearing in support of Clinton’s plan. No more hearings will be held on the issue, committee staff said, but proposals could be filed during the next two weeks. -30-