Federal Times Blogs

Steny Hoyer: Debate over federal pay is ‘bunk’, ‘not legitimate’

Bookmark and Share

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer yesterday delivered a blunt criticism of those who say federal employees are “overpaid, overbenefited and underworked:”

That’s bunk. That is bunk. That’s not a legitimate debate.

Hoyer, speaking to representatives of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association at their conference in Arlington, said he’s “never seen such a broad antipathy directed at public employees — federal, state and local — as I see today.”

Hoyer acknowledged that there are some slackers in the federal workforce — “you’ve worked with some” — who should be weeded out. But he said federal employees and retirees need to speak up so other citizens and lawmakers understand what services they provide and how vital the bulk of feds are.

Also at the conference, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said the government needs to produce more detailed information — broken out job-by-job — on the pay gap between federal employees and their private-sector counterparts.

The government estimates that federal employees are paid 24 percent less than private sector workers. But critics at the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation say those estimates don’t hold water, and have produced their own reports they say show feds are vastly overpaid.

Connolly criticized such estimates in an interview with Federal Times, saying they don’t reflect true “apples-to-apples” comparisons between federal and private workers doing the same jobs. But he also said he’s not convinced the government’s pay gap methodology has done that either.

I’m a little concerned that, on that side, that we do the same thing I’ve called for. Let’s compare apples to apples. I don’t know whether they really did that or not. I think that ought to be the simple rubric whereby we measure compensation and benefits.

It may be worth it for [the Office of Personnel Management] to … delve into that. What composes that 24 percent gap? Let’s look at high-end skill sets, let’s look at the blue collar workforce, and everything in between, and let’s start comparing valid comparisons and see what the variation is that makes up that 24 percent gap.

Connolly also said that some highly-skilled employees, such as attorneys and computer experts, are probably underpaid when compared to the private sector. He said a handful of federal employees may be paid more than the private sector, but doesn’t think it’s a widespread problem. “I think that’s a myth,” he said. “I think the examination will show that.”

He also called for a more flexible pay system that will allow the government to attract the skills it needs. “In some cases that means, frankly, paying a lot more than they’re paid now under a more rigid system,” Connolly said. “I think the system needs to be less rigid so that we’re attracting the requisite skill sets we need for the work force of the future.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce — of which Connolly is a member — is holding a hearing tomorrow on federal pay. It’ll be interesting to see how they touch on these issues.

As for Heritage, they laid out six issues they plan to hone in on here.

Tags: , ,


  1. CurrentFed Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    “But critics at the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation say those estimates don’t hold water, and have produced their own reports they say show feds are vastly overpaid.”

    “Consider the source” is a good principle to live by, and that goes double here.

  2. Starman35 Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I’d bet $100 that no one at Cato could even come close to the knowledge needed to do my job (meteorological research), and I’ll bet they are paid a lot more for whatever they do than a Fed is. Talk is cheap, & that’s all they do.

  3. Genisus Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    With this I agree:Connolly also said that some highly-skilled employees, computer experts, are probably underpaid when compared to the private sector. He said a handful of federal employees may be paid more than the private sector, but doesn’t think it’s a widespread problem. “I think that’s a myth,” he said. “I think the examination will show that.” We need to remove ourselves from NMCI. And get the Managers to get their acts together. In our Base Managers of the Agency need to be sent to classes and retrained. They abuse the powers they have. They don’t respect the Light duty injuries or acknowledge them. They let them sit and make puzzels and playgames and hire contractors to do their jobs. To much Fraud waste and abuse for my liking. Retired Marines abusing their grades and ranks. And hiring Supervisors that they have acknowleged have caused past trouble. The Division needs OSC, or IG requirements. It really needs cleaned up.

  4. TaxJock Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I just passed on a private sector job that would have tripled my salary. I like to serve and to be able to call it like I see it, which is rare in tax. The more they slander federal employees the more I think about reconsidering. Yes, the lower end of the skill spectrum federal workers are paid more, but at the top end, the highly skilled federal workers (e.g., Doctors, Attorneys, Scientists, Engineers, Economists…) are paid vastly less than in the private sector.

  5. Susan See Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    I was a federal bank examiner. It took five years for me to do on the job training, study, attend various classes in D.C., take a written test, and a 3-day practical test in D.C., plus many many hours of unpaid overtime to finally become commissioned. And when I left at 9 years I was earning $50,000 a year. Wow, really overpaid. And for the married examiners with families, they never saw them to speak of. My son is a critical care nurse and makes 42,000 a year with DOD. His pay is nowhere near what a nurse in the private sector makes. Unfortunately Mr. Berry has a poor opinion of federal workers and it will never be overome. The good ones will leave when the economy recovers. And performance-based pay, only a simplistic thinking idiot would ever try that system again. That what you get for trying to apply a simple band-aid over a convoluted, complex, complicated situation. Berry is one of those who can’t understand reality and develop a solution based on that reality. I guess it’s too complicated for him.

  6. Ruth Says:
    March 9th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I was a fed for 40 yrs, working for the VA nursing service. I was in a role for many years where part of my job was going out to the private sector and get salary information. I can say that there were no nurses at the VA who were paid more than their counterparts in the private sector. I can also say that private sector nurses and nurse managers made far more than our staff. You work for less money and with less staff and hope that when you retire, you can live. Nurses either leave the VA within 3 years of being hired or they stay for long term benefits; health care which you pay a lot of money for and retirement which you fund yourself. There are many out there who think benefits are free. Bad information that is passed around by uneducated people.

  7. Scott Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I work for the government by choice. I am in a specialized field. I left a contractor position and came to work for the government to serve my country and in doing so took a $25,000 a year pay cut to do the same job. I worked with contractors who were making a heck of a lot more money than their counterparts in the government, despite the fact that many of the government worker’s skill sets, exceeds those of their counterparts in the private sector. The contractor I worked for was routinely over budget and hired under-skilled people to fill the seats they needed fore the contract. I don’t understand how some politicians can say that the government needs to contract work out to save money… where is the savings when one contractors salary routinely exceeds that of the combined salary of two government workers. Doesn’t make sense, except for the fact that a lot of these politicians are wined and dined by these contractors whose profits are through the roof. Not a good way to get a skilled and highly trained work force.

  8. Phillip Says:
    March 12th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I have worked 30 years federal (DOD) and have witnessed every sort of slug and outstanding employee just like the private sector and I also have worked 8 plus years private sector. I work for 27 plus a hour as an electrician and work very hard and am damn proud of my job and my work and I get pretty PO’ed when these high hats in DC sit on their drains and talk down about the federal sector like we are all leaches and using the system and now they have decided the Unions are the blame for everything wrong in the world. They always need a boogie man and you can bet your bottom dollar there is not a one of them that will ever stand and accept any responsibility for what is going on in Our country. After all I do not have the government check book and any purchases I do in my line of work I price check and challenge the supplier if it is too out of site.

  9. james Says:
    March 13th, 2011 at 12:09 am

    i work for the usps and yes there are workers who slack, but most of the workers work there butts off.management continue to put more work on us with out any help to surply us with the things we need to do the job they put more on the good workers and do not address those few that are bad.this is done so that they can blame the whole when they can’t do there job. it makes it easy to put the blame on all the employees