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Pawlenty: Scrap FERS pension, further freeze pay

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Tim Pawlenty (Darren McCollester / Getty Images)

Former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty today called for scrapping the defined benefit pension in the Federal Employees Retirement System.

In a speech at the libertarian Cato Institute, which can be heard online here, Pawlenty said that federal employees should be “transitioned” from receiving both the FERS defined benefit and defined contribution plan, aka the Thrift Savings Plan, to just the TSP. This would bring federal retirement plans more in line with what the private sector offers, he said, since the private sector has largely given up on the defined benefit plan.

Pawlenty also said that federal employees receive far more compensation — both pay and benefits combined — than private sector counterparts, and that federal pay should be frozen further until the private sector catches up.

He also wants to take a look at the government’s step increase system of awarding pay increases to federal employees based on how long they’ve been in their current grade. And the federal workforce must shrink, and should only hire one new employee for every two who retire, Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty’s speech is a sign of the times. I can’t recall a prior presidential candidate ever talking about federal pay and benefits, beyond an occasional afterthought in a policy statement or letter to federal unions. But with the deficit shaping up to be a major issue in the 2012 elections and public sympathy in short supply for federal employees, they should expect more of such talk over the next year and a half — and brace themselves for bad news.

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  1. Steve Says:
    May 25th, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Hmmm private sector pay behind feds? I guess it depends on your skillset, always painting with a broad brush. Here is what I do, and yes I really do it. Deploy to support any AF unit in the world on a moments notice, in Chem Gear. Provide technical support for Satellite Terminals, Cryptographic Systems, Cisco Unified Call Manager, NET VX900, Cisco Routers and Switches, Promina Multiplexers, AVAYA Difinity Telephone Switches, REDCOM Telephone Switches, Sidewinder Firewall, Exchange 2003, Microsoft Server 2003 with focus on DNS and active directory, Microwave transmission systems, Laser transmission systems. And I provide training on all the above to my customer, all for 64,000 a year. Find a contractor to do that for you? For that kinda money. As for me, im looking for other employment. About time I got paid for what I do.

  2. Susan See Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 4:42 am

    I know this sounds like a good idea but once people realize that they will no longer be able to rely on federal agencies to protect them e.g. FAA or to answer questions about benefits, e.g. Social Security then they will get angry and blame their representatives. Something effective might be accomplished if legislators would stop taking such a simplistic approach. After all, nurses are underpaid, but clerks in D.C. are overpaid. And what will happen when current federal employees aren’t able to retire or retire without sufficient income? This is a recognized problem in the general population and now he wants to put federal retirees in the same position? I think he’s probably uninformed and not too bright. He’s failing to look ahead just to get votes. It’s disgusting.

  3. Tracey Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Starting with CONGRESS – when they give up their perpetual benefits, then we can see how things balance out. Regular government employees are not independently wealthy like the members of congress. After 30 years people have earned retirement – not subject to the stock market.

  4. rrhammer Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I keep hearing gov’t people say this. “We want you to be more like the private sector.” Less money, more burden sharing. Okay, fine. So what happens let’s say 5-10 years from now when the economy has recovered and prospered and those same private companies are paying their employees MORE than we make and better benefits? Does that mean i can knock on this guy’s door and remind him i need a pay raise and more benefits? FedEx and UPS are already seeing big profits in their sectors from what i understand. It’s easy to take us to the chopping block now, but private companies will eventually pass us in wages and profits.

  5. Johnny Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    If you’re thinking about working for the federal government, think long and hard!!! Cutting low salaries will drive us to get new elected officials. I promise!

  6. Thom Says:
    May 26th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Campain promises pandering to all NON-Fed employees. NO problem. This turkey won’t get anywhere.

  7. Ed Says:
    May 27th, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Tim Pawlenty is an ass.

  8. John Says:
    May 29th, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Fools like Pawlenty attack federal employees for the sole purpose of gaining favor with the right-wing nut groups. Not only does he not know what he’s talking about, he’s barking up the wrong tree.

    Perhaps he and his republican buddies should be looking at tax increases and stopping all the no-win wars we seem to be involved in.

  9. Rick Bunn Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Congress should be held to the same benefits and pay as civil service employees. What the heck is full pay for the rest of our life after a single two year term and then have the &*^^S to say that my retirement compensation under FERS is too generous after 30 plus years. Gov. Pawlenty is using this as a way to target the administration via the federal workforce. It will work for him, but if he is elected and follows thorugh on this we continue the downward spiral with regard to the quality of our workforce. You get what you pay for.

  10. Abner Says:
    June 1st, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Huh? Looks like only government employees have the time to comment?? Huh???

  11. Mark Says:
    June 5th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    CSRS was a very generous program and FERS was the
    Feds first attempt 27 years ago to reform the program to lower the exponentially growing future cost. The sheer number of retirees that will draw on the program is the cost problem. Fifty years ago the appeal of the federal job was the near guarantee of lifetime employment not subject to layoff and a defined benefit retirement. The employee accepted trade-off was receiving a lower pay than the private sector to pay for that “insurance” policy. Over the years the union promoted the lower pay as unfair and those same elected officials bought in to it without regard to the additional cost in retirement benefits, which hadn’t changed. FERS was the result of the first awakening to the impending problem of future costs. When FERS transition was offered to my CSRS wife, we did a cost benefit analysis and kept the CSRS plan. I’m a private sector engineer and work with federal engineers who make the same levels of pay, if not more. The difference is they will have a defined benefit retirement and I won’t. I understood that over 20 years ago and responsibly started funding my retirement. Retirement pay shouldn’t be considered an entitlement but a personal responsiblity. Everyone, fed and private, should be planning to take care of themselves, not relying on someone to take care of them.

  12. Nemeth Says:
    July 12th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    #9 (Rick Bunn)…”You get what you pay for”…..and then even LESS. Sorry #10 (Abner)..this is MY DAY OFF. I agree, working at a Veterans Hospital I see TOO MUCH! If a wuestrion were asked “How many people work here”?….The answer would be about 50%! THE UPPER MANAGEMENT ALLLOWS IT! The people who come to work with a sense of duty…get slammed by those who choose to use government property for personel use. One way or another the people that show up for a paycheck….get away with doing the bare minimum. The handful (on my floor) that really give a shit…are those who have served in the military and know what team-work is. They know the feeling of a job “well-done”. I was charge nurse…1 hour at the beginning of each shift, one employee in particular, would check the schedule book and somehow always managed to waste that 1st hour. She argued with whoever was Charge. RESULTS? Written up. The supervisor had a (brief) meeting about expectations. HERE IS THE IMPORTANT PART: During the meeting, she explained we were authorized 2-15 minute breaks, and 30 minute lunch. (Good). Then, another employee asked “Are we REALLY expected to work every minute we are here”?…..Well my answer would have been–yes. Do you expect to be paid for every minute you are on the clock. NOT! SUPERVISOR RESPONDED WITH “Well…of course not”! WTF? Just blew any authority I had out the window. So….instead of getting things done…do the bare minimum…and spend your time shopping on-line! GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO SECURE COMPUTERS SO EMPLOYEES ARE NOT ABLE TO ABUSE THE SYSTEM. The people who work hard…go unnoticed. Those who do the minimum: get the accolades…and the staff that work do get burned-out…residents suffer because instead of persons working for the $$…the extra time is spent ‘googling’