WASHINGTON – New legislation introduced in the Senate would slash pensions for all federal employees hired starting 2013, invoking the argument that benefits for government workers are too generous and are a large contributor to budget deficits.
The "Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act," offered Thursday by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), would eliminate all pensions under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) but keep the Thrift Savings Plan in tact. The bill would also apply to members of Congress.
"Right now, federal government workers receive far more generous retirement benefits than private sector employees," Burr said. "The cost to taxpayers of these benefits is unsustainable and we simply cannot afford it. We cannot ask taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for public employee benefits that are far more generous than their own."
Coburn added in a statement that the FERS pensions program "serves to foster political careerism and should have been frozen years ago," and fretted that "federal workers generally earn up to 20 percent more than their private sector counterparts."
Critics fear that eliminating the security that comes with pensions -- a major perk of relatively low-paying federal jobs -- could conceivably sway bright workers away from working for the government.
"Sen. Burr is wrong on the facts and wrong on morals," John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, told Government Executive, calling the legislation "cruel and useless."
"Eliminating pensions for future employees would do absolutely nothing for the fictional unfunded liabilities that the fact-challenged senator imagines he is resolving. Worse, Sen. Burr's bill is a mean-spirited attempt to deprive future employees of any hope of a dignified retirement after they have spent a lifetime in public service."
Burr's office did not respond to a request for comment.
[Photo credit: burr.senate.gov]