Feds facing diet paycheck

Wednesday - 9/21/2011, 2:19am EDT

Federal workers who were expecting to be chewed up by a vicious White House-trained attack dog have instead been nipped by a feisty toy poodle. While it still hurts, the damage could have been much, much worse.

Pessimists were worried that the White House deficit reduction plan would gut civil service benefits, mean higher health premiums, smaller monthly annuity checks and perhaps extend the current two-year pay freeze. Instead the White House has proposed changes that will force federal and postal workers to contribute more of their own money toward their retirement package.

Take home pay for federal workers would drop anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year under President Obama's plan to require civil servants to contribute an additional 1.2 percent of salary to the retirement fund.

Groups representing federal and postal workers say that feds have already taken a serious hit with the White House-ordered 2-year pay freeze which means $60 billion in lost wages for feds over the next 10 years. Unions that supported the president's election campaign, have expressed outrage at the pension proposal. But they know it could have been worse. And it may get much worse when Congress unveils its deficit-reduction plan.

Under the president's plan, the majority of feds who are covered by the FERS retirement program, would see their payroll retirement contributions increase .4 percent each year (starting in 2013) until they were putting 2 percent of salary into the retirement program. Workers under the older CSRS program would also see their contributions rise from 7 percent to 8.2 percent of salary. The annuity received by CSRS and FERS retirees would not increase.

Even with the higher contribution rate, administration officials say the federal retirement programs are much more generous than almost any private sector retirement program.

Also under the White House plan the FERS annuity supplement would continue for current employees, but not for people hired in the future. The supplement is for feds who retire before age 62 and are not yet eligible for Social Security.

But the worst is almost certainly yet to come. The Congressional supercommittee is considering a variety of cuts in federal employee/retirement benefit program. Although details won't be known until around Thanksgiving, lobbyists for federal groups believe the bipartisan group is looking at a plan that would raise employee retirement plan contributions 5 or 6 percent.

This morning at 10 a.m. on our Your Turn radio show, Steve Watkins, editor of the Federal Times and senior writer Sean Reilly will talk about possible changes facing feds and the status of the U.S. Postal Service. Daniel Adcock, legislative director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees will talk about threats to retirement benefits and possible higher costs in the federal health program.

Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Some bees do, in fact, die after stinging humans. It's called autotomizing, and it happens when a bee's stinger, which is shaped sort of like a corkscrew, buries itself into skin. However, as Mental Floss points out, most bees are too weak to pull the stinger back out without ripping their abdomens open. So the next time you get stung, remember it really does hurt them more than it hurts you.


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