'Vitriol' toward feds is undeserved

Wednesday - 12/14/2011, 3:06pm EST

Jessica Klement, government affairs director, Federal Managers Association

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By Jolie Lee
@jleewfed
Federal News Radio

Federal employees could face another year of the pay freeze they are currently in and a reduction in their annuity in a bill passed Tuesday in the House.

The bill would extend a payroll tax cut to middle-class Americans, but at the expense of federal employees, said Jessica Klement, government affairs director at the Federal Managers Association in an interview with Your Turn with Mike Causey.

The proposal, however, is unlikely to pass with the President threatening to veto the bill if it does not raise taxes on the wealthy. His veto threat, however, did not specify rejection of the federal pay freeze. In fact, proposals to target federal employees' pay and benefits to cut the deficit have cropped up throughout this year.

"There is vitriol toward federal employees that I can't seem to understand," Klement said.

FMA and federal employee unions have put up a united front to fight this most recent proposal in the House.

FMA President Patricia Niehaus said in a statement, "I am appalled that while some Members of Congress are calling for a 2 percent payroll tax break in order to stimulate the economy and lend a hand to struggling middle class Americans, others aim to achieve this on the backs of two million fellow middle class Americans who are confronting the same financial challenges."

Threats to federal pay will only drive experienced feds to retirement, Klement said. Part of the House payroll bill is a provision to change the annuity calculation from the high-three to a high-five formula.

Even if federal employees' pay and benefits are spared in this round of budget talks, cutbacks from the debt ceiling deal could still mean reductions in force at agencies — without a reduction in agencies' missions, Klement said.

"Programs still need to get done. Jobs still need to get done," she said.

What's worse, Klement said, is that 2012 is an election year so politicians will be taking "a lot of cheap shots" at federal employees.

"I'm really nervous about what 2012 will bring for federal employees," Klement said.

In the second half of Your Turn with Mike Causey, Mike talked to Federal Times' Steve Losey and Sean Reilly.