Federal pay debate heats up again

Wednesday - 11/10/2010, 5:21pm EST

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)

Download mp3

Mike Causey, senior correspondent, Federal News Radio

Click to hear Mike's analysis.

Download mp3

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The federal pay debate is heating up again with a report today that feds who make $150,000 or more have increased tenfold in the last five years.

USA Today's analysis also found the number of feds making $150,000 and up doubled under the Obama administration. The "fast-growing" pay of federal workers has caught the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans, according to the article.

In a news conference today, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), likely Speaker of the House, said, "It's gotten to the point of where the average federal worker makes twice the average private sector worker." (Click above to listen to the clip.)

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry noted that only three percent of federal employees earn more than $150,000, saying most feds are middle-class.

The high earners are experts who "include doctors who are treating our wounded veterans, scientists who are researching cures for diseases, and counterterrorism experts who are protecting the American people every day. And, in almost all cases, they earn less than their counterparts in the private sector," Berry said in a statement today.

A Federal Pay Council recommendation from last week found the average fed pay was in fact 24 percent less than their private sector counterparts in 2009.

Federal unions also say the data does not take into consideration that most federal jobs are highly specialized.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement today that more than two-thirds of feds earn less than $80,000. Those who make at least $150,000 are doctors, lawyers, scientists, executives or people with "specialized skills."

The attacks on federal pay are a "cheap political shot," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, in a statement today.

"The federal government has been able to create a highly-skilled, dedicated workforce in spite of the fact that it pays modest salaries," Gage said.

In August, USA Today ran a story that feds were paid double that of the private sector, based on a Cato Institute blog. At that time, Berry had told Federal News Radio that the data compared "apples to oranges."

Click above to hear Federal News Radio senior correspondent Mike Causey's analysis on the latest in the federal pay debate.