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Your salary is (probably) now online

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The Asbury Park Press, which like Federal Times is owned by Gannett, this morning posted their latest database of federal salary and bonus information.

APP obtained 2011 salary data for most federal employees through a Freedom of Information Act request. A user can search by name, agency, job title, and location, and find out many feds’ grade levels, salaries, and bonuses for 2011. For example, a search for “Geithner,” “Treasury” and “District of Columbia” will reveal Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was paid $199,700 last year and received no bonus.

The list is not comprehensive, however. It doesn’t include FBI, CIA, Defense Department, or IRS employees, or employees involved in security work, nuclear materials or national security matters. A separate U.S. Postal Service database can be found here.

What do you think about this database? Will it spark conversations in your office about what your colleagues are making? Are you angry that federal salary data has been posted publicly? Sound off below.

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Romney: ‘Too many’ federal employees, ‘paid too much’

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(Darren McCollester, Getty Images)

ThinkProgress reports that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a swipe at the number of federal employees and their salaries this morning at a campaign stop in New Hampshire:

Federal employees, we’ve got too many of them, and they’re paid too much. In many cases, they do a good job, we respect the work that they do, it’s important work that they do. We just have too many.

Expect to hear a lot more of those kinds of criticisms from Republican candidates over the next 15 months. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column today also calls out candidate Michele Bachmann for trying to pin the growth in highly-paid Transportation Department employees on President Obama. (Long story short, a large chunk of the growth occurred on President Bush’s watch, before Obama took office, and Obama actually limited and then froze federal pay raises.)

Here’s a clip of Romney’s comment:

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Pay gap methodology: What do you think?

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Should the federal government change the way it determines the gap between public and private pay? It’s been a hot political topic this year, and the new Republican majority in the House is certain to shine a spotlight on federal salaries. Many critics say the government’s pay gap method doesn’t hold water and needs a complete overhaul.

Vote in our poll on our homepage, and then sound off here on what you think should be done.


John Berry: Federal-private salary comparisons are ‘apples to oranges’

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Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry released a statement last night disagreeing with recent stories that find federal employees are paid vastly more than employees in the private sector. Berry’s arguments largely track with points made by other OPM officials Friday afternoon. Here’s Berry’s full statement:

Recent press stories regarding pay for Federal employees compared to private sector workers are unfair and untrue.  Simply put, these stories have compared apples to oranges.  Federal workers are not paid double the private sector.  The Cato Institute and USA Today stories quoting Cato staff (and similar statements from the Heritage Foundation) look only at gross averages, including retail and restaurant service workers and other entry-level positions that reduce private sector average pay in comparison to the Federal average, which does not include many of these categories in its workforce.

The Federal workforce today is highly specialized.  Thirty years ago, over 22% of our workforce was in blue collar jobs.  Now that percentage has dropped by half while the percentage of IT and Health professionals has doubled.  Data clearly show that many of these highly specialized workers – doctors, nurses, cybersecurity professionals – are paid less than their private sector counterparts and are making a significant sacrifice in pay to serve their neighbors.

The wages we pay are fair and the benefits we offer are good.  But working for the Federal government is about more than money.  People grow up dreaming about working for NASA, or the CIA, or becoming a park ranger, or cancer researcher.  We should be applauding these hard-working civil servants – not mischaracterizing them.

It is also worth noting that in this time when so many American families are struggling to make ends meet, the President is committed to making sure the Federal government is spending the taxpayers’ money wisely and carefully, and cutting costs wherever possible.  Like households and businesses across the country, the Federal Government is tightening its belt.   That’s why the President launched the Accountable Government Initiative and has pursued a variety of areas to cut waste and boost efficiency from contracting to improper payments, Federal real property, and unnecessary programs.

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Heritage Foundation: Cut feds’ pay by $47B

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The Heritage Foundation today released a report on federal compensation which calls for drastic cuts in most federal salaries. Heritage concluded that when benefits are factored in, feds earn 30 percent to 40 percent more on average than their private-sector counterparts. Bringing federal salaries in line with market rates would save $47 billion in 2011 alone, Heritage said in its report, “Inflated Federal Pay: How Americans Are Overtaxed to Overpay the Civil Service.”

Heritage also calls for abolishing the General Schedule, with its longevity-based raises, and establishing a pay-for-performance system with broad pay bands, cutting leave and other generous federal benefits, hiring more contractors, and making it easier for managers to fire underperforming workers.

But Heritage said Congress should not implement across-the-board cuts for all federal employees. Highly skilled federal workers such as lawyers and engineers are underpaid when compared to the private sector, the report said.

The report is sure to throw more fuel on the fire of this ongoing debate, which the Republican Party is eager to revisit in an election year that is becoming a referendum on the size and role of the government.

What do you think? Drop by Federal Times’ forums here and sound off.

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Senate votes down federal pay freeze

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The Senate just voted 53-45 to table an amendment that would have frozen federal employees’ raises, bonuses and salary increases for one year.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to break ranks and vote to kill the measure, which was sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But six Democrats — Evan Bayh of Indiana, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida, and John Tester of Montana — voted to continue debating the amendment. Of course, that’s not necessarily the same thing as voting for it, but it does suggest Democrats may not be united in their support for federal employees’ raises.

The amendment would also have imposed a hard cap on federal staffing, and required all agencies to cut one existing full-time employee for each new full-time employee hired. This section of the amendment did not allow any exceptions to the hiring freeze.

A House bill with similar provisions could come up for a vote later today.

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NARFE: Don’t make feds the ‘whipping boy’ in deficit debate

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Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, just put out a statement urging senators to oppose a spending bill amendment that would freeze federal salaries. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., want to cover the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan war spending by eliminating expenses such as federal civilian raises and bonuses. Their proposal — as well as a House bill also targeting the 2011 raise — would not affect military service members. Baptiste said:

We believe it is wrong to single out federal workers for cuts that others serving our country are not being asked to make. More specifically, why would the Congress take a punitive action against the thousands of federal civilian employees who are working alongside their uniformed colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan by requiring them to forgo a small salary increase to partially pay for the wars they are helping to win?

It’s also a mistake, Baptiste said, to think of the civil service as a cost burdening the nation instead of a resource to invest in:

Civil service pay and benefits have been a perennial target of budgeteers and “bureaucrats” have long been an easy “whipping boy” for voters. If we are to make wise choices about putting our fiscal house in order, members of Congress and the public need to be educated about the invaluable contributions made to our country by Americans who devote their careers to the public service.

The drive to strike the 2011 pay raise seems to be picking up steam. HR 5382, a bill sponsored by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that would cancel the proposed 1.4 percent raise, is likely to come up for a vote tomorrow. A vote on the McCain and Coburn amendment hasn’t been scheduled yet, but also could come soon.

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McCain, Coburn: Freeze feds’ salaries to pay for wars

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., today filed amendments to the Iraq and Afghanistan war supplemental spending bills that seek to offset its costs by cutting spending elsewhere — and feds aren’t going to like what they’ve got in mind.

McCain and Coburn want to save about $2.6 billion by freezing federal employees’ raises, bonuses and other salary increases for one year. This comes on the heels of their House counterparts’ move to put federal raises on the chopping block as part of their YouCut program.

They also seek to eliminate non-essential government travel ($10 billion over 10 years), collect unpaid taxes from federal employees ($3 billion), dispose of unneeded government property ($15 billion), reduce government printing and publishing costs ($4.4 billion over 10 years), eliminate bonuses for poor-performing government contractors ($8 billion over 10 years), and auction off unused and unneeded government equipment ($250 million over 10 years).

All in all, McCain and Coburn say the proposed cuts would cover $120 billion in war spending costs, although it’s worth noting that $33 billion of those savings would come over 10 years. But is the tax thing really fertile ground for finding new money? The IRS already levies feds’ salaries to recover those funds under the Federal Payment Levy Program, and apparently there’s a good bit of turnover on the list, which suggests tax-delinquent feds do eventually pay off their debts.

So feds, what do you think? Sound off below, or shoot me an e-mail at slosey@federaltimes.com.

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GOP’s YouCut targets federal pay raises

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The House GOP’s YouCut program this week seeks to put next year’s proposed 1.4 percent civilian raise on the chopping block. And so far, it’s the top choice to be cut — House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said today that 40 percent of the nearly 218,000 votes cast so far this week were in favor of eliminating the 2011 raise. (People must really want to keep those mohair subsidies.)

YouCut combines the democratic ideals of American Idol with the excitement of a Heritage Foundation seminar. Each week, Republicans propose five programs to be cut, and then let people vote online or via text message on which one they want to slash. The GOP then tries to force a vote on the cuts on the House floor, but lawmakers last week voted 240 to 177 to keep the first YouCut “winner,” the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program’s $2.5 billion emergency fund.

Cantor said the proposal to cut the 2011 raise could be brought to the House floor this week. Eliminating pay raises would save $2 billion next year and, if it is continued, $30 billion over the next decade, he said. ”This vote won’t be easy for everyone, but it is exactly the kind of choice we must begin to make to get us off the path towards financial ruin,” he said.

The proposal would not affect the military’s pay raise. The Obama adminstration wants to give service members a 1.4 percent raise, but some lawmakers want to bump it up to 1.9 percent.

This is sure to increase the political temperature surrounding federal raises, and may make it difficult for lawmakers to support pay parity, at the very least. What do you think about YouCut taking aim at federal salaries?

Video of Cantor after the jump:

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