Romney Goes After Federal Employees in Fiscal Plan

He wants to put public salaries on par with the private sector and cut the federal workforce.

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During a speech in Washington on Friday, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney argued that federal employees are making too much compared to their private-sector counterparts, and as president he'd work to even the score.

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"Public servants shouldn't get a better deal than the taxpayers they work for," he said Friday at an event organized by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group.

His proposal to align federal and private-sector compensation, which he says could save as much as $47 billion in taxpayer money a year, comes as part of a broad fiscal policy plan that includes as much as $500 billion per year in spending cuts, a spending cap at 20 percent of GDP, and significant changes to national entitlement programs like Medicare.

Romney's campaign, citing a Heritage Foundation study from 2010, notes that federal employees make as much as 30 to 40 percent more than comparable workers in the private sector. According to Romney, since President Obama became president the number of federal employees making more than $150,000 annually has more than doubled. [See our photo gallery of Republicans on the campaign trail.]

"The American people are increasingly working to support the government," he said during his speech Friday. "It ought to be the other way around."

Romney got applause from the conservative crowd when he called for cuts to not only the salaries, but also the size of the federal workforce. He repeated a proposal—which he included in the jobs plan he rolled out earlier this year—that calls for a 10 percent cut to the federal workforce through a "1-for-2 system of attrition." In other words, for every two people that leave the federal government, only one person will be hired to replace them.

According to his jobs plan, this would give him the flexibility, as president, "to allocate the new hiring to those areas where additional resources could be put to most effective use."

[Check out our collection of political cartoons on the 2012 presidential field.]

Unions that represent federal workers have long dismissed the claim that public employees make more than similar professionals in the private sector. The National Federation of Federal Employees, for example, is drawing attention to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data presented Friday which claimed that federal employees are paid nearly 27 percent less than those with comparable private sector jobs.

"Candidates' proposals to slash federal pay are being offered in the guise of federal deficit reduction, but in reality they are politically driven," says William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "The truth is that Republicans campaigning for office see a political opportunity in painting the federal workforce as a symbol of big government, and they have exploited it to the fullest."