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Nancy  Madsen
By Nancy Madsen December 17, 2012

Jim Moran says cuts to pay and pensions will cost federal workers $103 billion over 10 years

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-8th, is concerned that federal employees will be viewed as sacrificial lambs in negotiations to cut deficits and avoid the end-of-the-year fiscal cliff.

So he wrote a letter reminding President Barack Obama of a number of steps Congress and the White House already have taken to save money at the expense of U.S. government workers. The Nov. 21 missive was signed by a bipartisan group of nine House members from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia who represent large numbers of federal employees.

Moran wrote, "Since the beginning of 2011, through various legislative and administration actions, the budget savings derived from reduced compensation and benefits for the federal workforce has totaled at least $103 billion (or more than $50,000 per employee), as measured over the 10 year budget window."

We wondered his figures on compensation and benefits cuts for federal employees -- at least $103 billion over 10 years, more than $50,000 per worker -- hold up.

Anne Hughes, Moran’s spokeswoman, pointed us to a variety of White House and congressional documents that she said back up her boss.

Moran’s estimate of $103 billion in compensation and benefits cuts is based on three actions:

*Congress canceled 1.4 percent cost-of living raises scheduled for all federal civilian employees in 2011 and 2012. The White House, which proposed the pay freeze, estimated it would save $60 billion over 10 years.

*Obama has asked for a 0.5 percent pay raise for federal employees in 2013, but Congress is not expected to put the increase into effect before April, when it needs to approve a new continuing resolution to fund government. Congress, on the other hand, has approved a 1.7 percent raise for the military that would go into effect Jan. 1. Prior to the recession, Congress typically approved equal raises for federal workers and the military. The White House estimates the smaller pay hike for bureaucrats would save $28 billion over 10 years.

*Pension contributions made by new federal employees will be increased as a result of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. Starting Jan. 1, new workers will have to contribute 2.3 percent of their pay to retirement while other federal bureaucrats will continue to pay 0.8 percent. The Senate Finance Committee and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate that the increase for new employees will save the government $15.5 billion over 11 years -- not the 10 years mentioned in Moran’s letter.

These three actions add up to $103.5 billion -- almost exactly the number Moran cited.

But do they break down to "more than $50,000" per federal worker, as the congressman claimed?

Not quite.

The number of full time, federal civilian employees has held steady at 2.1 million since 2010, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management that Moran used and to White House figures. So the lost wages and benefits comes to about $49,047 per worker.

We should note that the White House estimates the U.S. spent $242 billion in salaries and benefits for executive branch employees, not including the military, during fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. That amounts to 6.4 percent of the $3.8 trillion in federal spending during the budget year.

Our ruling

Moran wrote that Congress and the White House has saved $103 billion over 10 years by cutting pay raises and benefits for non-military federal employees. That breaks down to more than $50,000 per worker, he wrote.

Moran is right about the $103 billion total cost. The discrepancies in other numbers he uses are insignificant. We rate his statement True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Jim Moran, "Letter to White House, House Leaders: Federal Employees Paid Their Shares," Nov. 21, 2012.

Emails from Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes, Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, 2012.

Congressional Budget Office, "Comparing the Compensation of Federal and Private-Sector Employees," Jan. 30, 2012., "Will Budget Deal Target Federal Pay and Benefits?" Nov. 15, 2012.

The White House, "Fact Sheet: Cutting the Deficit by Freezing Federal Employee Pay," Nov. 29, 2010.

The New York Times, "Amid Deficit Fears, Obama Freezes Pay," Nov. 29, 2010.

CNNMoney, "Congress freezes federal pay," Dec. 22, 2010.

The Washington Post, "Federal pay raise questions and answers," March 12, 2012.

The White House, Budget of the United States Government FY 2013, Chapter 11, Improving the Federal Workforce, accessed Nov. 28, 2012.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables1.3 and 8.7, accessed Dec. 11, 2012.

American Society of Military Comptrollers, "Federal Salary Council reports 35 percent federal pay gap," Nov. 21, 2012.

Washington Post, "Obama’s win still leaves federal unions on defense," Nov. 7, 2012.

Government Printing Office, P.L. 112-96 "Middle Class Tax Relief And Job Creation Act of 2012," Feb. 22, 2012.

Senate Finance Committee, "Summary of The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012," Feb. 16, 2012.

Congressional Budget Office, Cost Estimatefor conference agreement on H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Feb. 16, 2012.

Office of Personnel Management, Employment September 2012, accessed Dec. 10, 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau, Government Employment & Payroll "Federal Government Civilian Employment for March 2010," March 2010.

Interview with John M. Palguta, vice president for policy at Partnership for Public Service, Dec. 11, 2012.


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