Pay/Benefits Cuts Proposed by Senate Budget Committee

The Senate Budget Committee is using a federal employee pay freeze as a model for its budget blueprint. readers will no doubt remember last year’s budget plan from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka the Simpson-Bowles plan). It contained a number of cuts to help get the federal deficit under control, including some that would directly impact federal employees.

Even though the Fiscal Commission’s plan failed to get the votes needed to move forward in Congress, if you thought you’ve heard the last of this plan, think again. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced today that he’s using the Commission’s plan as a blueprint for the Senate budget plan.

Speaking on the plan, Conrad said, “I will begin a Budget Committee markup of a long-term budget for the nation. As my Chairman’s Mark, I will lay down the bipartisan Fiscal Commission plan, also known as the Bowles-Simpson plan. It is a plan which I believe represents the best blueprint from which to build a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement that can ultimately be adopted.”

So what does this mean if you’re a federal worker? Here’s a refresher on some of what the Simpson-Bowles plan contains:

  • Impose a three-year freeze on pay for members of Congress
  • Impose a three-year pay freeze on federal workers and Defense Department civilians
  • Reduce the size of the federal workforce 10% through attrition
  • Reduce federal travel, printing, and vehicle budgets
  • Use the highest five years of earnings to calculate civil service pension benefits for new retirees (CSRS and FERS), rather than the highest three years prescribed under current law, to bring the benefit calculation in line with the private sector standard

I wrote an article at the time the plan was originally released that offers some additional details.

Why this plan? Conrad said that he thinks it’s the best approach for achieving agreement on a long term budget plan: “I had considered presenting a budget that reflected the general consensus among the Democratic Members of the Committee. However, after considerable consultations with my colleagues, I have determined that would not be the most effective approach. The fact is that many plans have already been offered that lean right or lean left. Adding another to the stack would do little to move us closer to a bipartisan agreement that can actually be adopted. The Fiscal Commission Budget Plan provides a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction framework that we can build upon. It is not perfect, but it does represent a middleground, consensus solution to the country’s fiscal imbalance.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.