Feds as reluctant swingers

Wednesday - 2/15/2012, 2:00am EST

In swing dancing, I am told, you sometimes take one step forward and two steps backward.

By that definition, most federal workers may be about to become swingers whether they like it or not.

By now, you know that the White House budget proposes a 0.5 percent pay raise next January. But that would be offset by a 0.4 percent increase in your contributions to your CSRS or FERS retirement plan. In 2014, that contribution would go up another 0.4 percent and by 2014 you would be paying an additional 1.2 percent for your retirement benefit. And that may be the good news.

Republican budget cutters — and some of their Democratic colleagues — would like feds to sacrifice even more. They would extend the pay freeze at least another year. And they might propose exchanging the current high-three retirement formula for a system that bases annuities of future hires on their highest five-year average salary.

AFGE President John Gage, initially a strong supporter of President Obama, said the White House budget treats federal employee paychecks "...like an ATM machine." National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen Kelley also blasted the White House plan.

One committee-cleared plan in the House, would raise FERS employee contributions to 2.3 percent over a three year period. CSRS employees would wind up paying 8.5 percent, up from their current 7 percent contribution level. It also includes the switch from the high-three to a high-five formula. And it would eliminate the Social Security supplement for FERS employees who voluntarily retire before age 62. Democratic leaders say they will ignore, or vote down the plan when it reaches the Senate. Still ...

Meantime, "Son of the Supercommittee" — the 15 member bipartisan House/Senate group — is also looking for ways to cut federal costs. It is due to report out by Feb. 29. Its plan (like others before it) is to present Congress with a series of proposed cuts and changes that would be voted up or down, without amendments. A similar group met last year with much fanfare and high hopes (from some people) that would do the same thing. So despite its plan and good intentions, this current group may go the same way. That is, do nothing. Or it may do something and Congress could then step up to the plate and do nothing.

So what's your bet: Will it be something, or nothing?

Ask The Pros!!! On today's Your Turn radio show, we're going to talk with some real experts who will come at the issues from different angles. Federal Times editor Steve Watkins and senior writer Sean Reilly will talk about the pending issues, buyouts, a surge in retirements and what a worst-case scenario might look like. Then Julie Tagen, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees will give an update on what current and former feds are facing as well as some budget-cutting plans that are not on anybody's radar. That's 10 a.m. EST on your computer or on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. Area.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

In the late 1930s, one of the most famous socialites was actually a mannequin. "Cynthia," designed by a soap sculptor and one of the first life-like mannequins, was invited to the wedding of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII of England. LIFE featured her in the pages of the magazine and she was "a mainstay at galas and dinner parties," according to Mental_Floss ... and you thought Paris Hilton was vacuous!


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