The NTEU, the largest independent union of federal workers, says the increased pension contribution would boost the annual payment for a worker earning $50,000 a year from $400 to $1,150.
In introducing the bill, freshman Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said people are "rightfully outraged by the pension benefits guaranteed to a bloated federal workforce."
Ross wants to see savings from his bill go to deficit reduction, but the current plan is to use it to help pay for a $260 billion bill to finance highway construction and transit programs over the next five years.
Freshman Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., has also introduced a bill to stop what she called a gimmick to dodge the pay freeze. Her bill would suspend through the end of this year within-grade step increases, wherein many employees can get raises of 2 percent or 3 percent every one to three years upon the recommendation of their bosses. These increases, not covered in the pay freeze, cost about $1 billion a year, Roby said.
Republicans are not alone in trying to tap the federal workforce for savings. The White House, in its budget proposal for 2013, is calling for a 1.2 percent increase in federal employee contributions to their pension plans. That would reduce the government's share by $27 billion over the next decade.
But the White House also favors giving federal workers a 0.5 percent pay raise in 2013. "A permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable," it said.
An AP-CNBC poll taken in November 2010 found that many agree that the federal workforce is too big and can be a source of savings. Some 62 percent said they favored reducing the number of federal workers as a means of shrinking the federal deficit, and 59 percent supported a federal wage freeze.
Republicans base many of their arguments on a recently published report by the Congressional Budget Office that found that the average federal worker earns about 2 percent more than a comparable private sector worker, and that, when pension and health benefits are factored in, federal compensation is 16 percent greater. Federal unions say the report overstates the advantages of federal workers.
The CBO reported wide variances depending on worker education levels. Federal civilian workers with no more than a high school education earned about 21 percent more, and their benefits were 72 percent higher, than their private-sector counterparts. But federal workers with a professional degree or doctorate earned about 23 percent less.
The government spends about $200 billion a year to compensate the 2.3 million federal civilian employees, including about $80 billion for civilian personnel working in the Defense Department.
The CBO noted that the size of the federal workforce has remained at about 2 million over the past 30 years, and that its share of the total U.S. workforce has declined, from 2.3 percent in 1980 to 1.7 percent in 2010.
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