January 29, 2014

Federal Employees' Database of Salaries

Database of Salaries of America's Well-compensated Federal Employees

For an In-depth Look by Name (or Location or Agency):
Find FEDERAL SALARIES FOR 2014 based on location, agency, or even name at this site. Jobs that relate to national security are excluded, but other positions are available.

Federal Employees 2014 Salaries by Name

The list contains most executive branch employees but does not cover the White House, Congress, the Postal Service, and independent agencies and commissions. Search 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 employees.
Federal civilian employees received a cost of living salary increase of 2% in 2010 (in addition to step increases see following post); there was no no cost of living increase in 2011 or 2012.
For U.S. Postal employees:
U.S. Postal Service Employees
For a Broad View of 2013 Salaries:
2013 Salary Tables and Related Information
For general salary ranges of particular job descriptions, check out this U.S. Office of Personnel Management website.
FederalDaily.com Federal Salary Search:
Salary Search 2012
Search by locality, grade, and step
Why does it matter?
There are a variety of reasons why you should be able to find out how much federal employees are making.

First of all, it is important to know how tax money is used. This doesn't mean that you, personally as a taxpayer, are paying these salaries. But as a taxpayer, you should find out how taxes are used.

Second, it helps to see the salary differences between the private companies and government jobs.
When I first saw some of the federal salaries, I was shocked I was certain that the private sector paid more. I was wrong.  

While ordinary Americans and businesses suffer and struggle to make ends meet, our government is rapidly wasting our tax dollars on pet projects and special interest groups (especially unions, failed companies, failed banks, etc.), protecting its civilian employees, and lavishing money on the privileged few. As we balance our checkbooks and pinch pennies to keep a roof over our heads and stay out of debt, the politicians in Washington rack up massive deficits and rapidly shove America towards hyperinflation, bankruptcy, or fiscal insolvency. While we lose our jobs and close our businesses, the career politicians in our nation’s capitol keep hiring more bureaucrats and giving them first-rate salaries, generous benefits, pay raises, and bonuses. While we scale back on all our purchases, buy food and clothes from Walmart, cancel travel plans, and buy smaller cars to afford the rising cost of gas, Nancy Pelosi flies around the country in private Air Force jets surrounded by friends and family members, racking up $2.1 million in unnecessary travel expenses, including $101,429.14 tabs for booze and food, all paid with our tax dollars. While Washington fiddles, the American heartland burns! [Americans Suffer, While Government Workers Prosper]

In 1989, Congress passed an amendment allowing for automatic raises, unless lawmakers specifically voted to reject it.
With a huge federal deficit, Congress should be curbing spending, not lining their pockets at our expense. From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year. Undeserved pay raises are no surprise, as Congress has shown a voracious appetite for spending. They forget that their salaries are paid by taxpayers. Americans are being forced to tighten their belts—if they even have a job—yet members of Congress, federal employees and career military personnel have had extra income to do with as they please. [Source]

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2008, the average federal employee made $79,197, excluding benefits; when benefits were added in, the average federal employee's total compensation was $119,982. The average private sector employee made $49,935; when benefits were added in, the average private employee's total compensation was $59,909. Stated differently, the benefit cost for the average federal employee back in 2008 was $40,785; the average benefit cost for private sector employees for the same year was $9,974. In 1953, about 75 percent of Federal employees had a GS level of 7 or below. By 2009, in contrast, more than 70 percent of the workforce was GS 8 or higher (the 2011 pay scale for a GS 8 is $37,631 - $48,917; for a GS 15, it is $99,628 - $129,517, and can reach a high of $155,500 when locality pay is factored in). [Source]

Let us compare the wages of federal employees to that of one of America's most successful private business, Caterpillar. Top-tier workers at Caterpillar, those employed seven years or more, earn on average $26 an hour, or $55,000 a year before overtime. The company earned a record $4.9 billion profit last year and is projecting even better results for 2012, yet they are insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness. For the junior third of the workers who typically earn $12 to $19 an hour, Caterpillar has made no promises but has suggested it might raise their wages based on local market conditions. Caterpillar has offered workers several modest, one-time payments, but is also demanding far higher health care contributions from its workers, up to $1,900 a year more. The company had profit of $39,000 per employee last year. [Source]

Only about 20% of U.S. households earn $100,000 or more per year, and less than 7% of the population has personal income of $100,000 or more per year. Education is the biggest single reason for incomes discrepancies. Basically the longer one stays in school the more money they make per year. People with Masters and above tend to break the $90k mark, those without do not. Individuals is 7%. About 9% of our population has a graduate degree or better. Of those individuals with income who were older than 25 years of age, over 42% had incomes below $25,000 while the top 10% had incomes exceeding $82,500 a year. The distribution of income among individuals differs substantially from household incomes as 42% of all households had two or more income earners. As a result, 20.5% of households have six figure incomes, even though only 6.24% of Americans had incomes exceeding $100,000. [Source][Source][Source]

As with all federal retirees, U.S. military retirees and former civilian Department of Defense employees receive pension benefits from the government — the 2012 figure is $48.5 billion for military personnel and $20 billion for those civilian employees. We have no figure for the pensions of non-Pentagon federal retirees who worked on security issues for the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, or the Departments of Justice and Treasury. [The Real U.S. National Security Budget is $1.2 Trillion, Tomdispatch.com, March 3, 2011]

It is one thing for the taxpaying citizens of the United States to know that federal employees are being provided for (including matching deposits into all versions of the Civil Service Retirement), but now the General Accounting Office (GAO) has come out with a new report showing that taxpayers are providing retirement benefits, including pensions and health care, for independent/freelance (private) contractors not on the federal payroll. Taxpayers also cover these retiree costs for contractors' spouses, too. And, in some cases, if contractors want to retire early (at age 50), just like regular federal workers, many can then get taxpayer-funded coverage. A statistic from this GAO Report is as follows: "For the Department of Energy alone, overall this coverage cost taxpayers $6.8 billion over the last 10 years." Note that this situation is ongoing for years.

In 2008 the average federal worker earned twice that of his private-industry counterpart in wages and benefits: $120,000 per year versus $60,000. Federal pay and benefits are up 58% since 2000 compared to just 28% in the private sector. Of course, when you consider the massive productivity advantage government workers enjoy over their private counterparts, it all makes sense. WTF? Well, it's all the Democrats fault undoubtedly. Wait, looks like it was Bush. If you drive through Northern Virginia, you will find nearly entire neighborhoods of $500,000 to $900,000 homes owned by government workers or contractors. Then you can drive five streets over and find $200,000 to $400,000 homes owned by those who pay the salaries for those government employees. It’s a fascinating distribution of wealth. Most government employees and contractors could not earn more than $60,000 on the free market. Their only chance to make that kind of money comes from having an employer that not only never has to make a profit but can forcibly take money through taxation. The answer is that both are deeply to blame. Don't be fooled. There's nary a difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to growth of government. Both parties are completely, sadistically, out of control. There is NO spending restraint on either side of the aisle, just hot air, promises, and purple unicorns. Oh and bubbles. [Public Servants Live Better Than the Public, and Federal Pay Continues to Skyrocket, The Daily Bail, October 26, 2009]

The average government worker’s retirement pension is equivalent to the average private sector worker’s base wages while still working! And government workers typically work from ages 25 to 55, then retire for 30 years, while private sector workers typically work from ages 25 to 65, then retire for 20 years. [How Much Do Pensions Really Cost?, CalWatchDog.com, March 11, 2011]

In addition to the guaranteed retirement plans (defined benefit pensions) available to federal workers in the United States, 84% of state and local employees retain defined benefit coverage, compared to 21% of private sector workers. From a budgeting standpoint these plans are a nightmare with growing, open-ended, liabilities that must ultimately be paid by the taxpayers. As people, we can rationalize many things, and we may even convince ourselves that we are entitled.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal agency that insures company pensions, pays benefits to 44 million Americans whose pension plans were terminated by their employers. A host of companies have terminated their pension plans since the mid-1980s and turned them over to the PBGC. Benefits paid to retirees from terminated plans often fall well short of those promised when the companies established the pensions. Annual PBGC benefits are capped even if payments were larger before a company terminated the plan [subject to other statutory limitations, as of 2011, the PBGC insurance program pays pension benefits up to $54,000 per year to participants who retire at age 65]. The Center for Federal Financial Institutions, a think-tank in Washington, D.C. warned in September 2004 that the PBGC could run out of money by 2020. Many companies have terminated pension plans (defined-benefit plans) and substituted profit-sharing plans or (401(k)) pension plans (defined-contribution plans). [More Tension Over Pensions, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 3, 2004]

The average public sector worker spends about 30 years in the workforce and 30 years retired, and the average private sector worker spends about 40 years in the workforce and 20 years retired. California public sector retirees, on average, receive a retirement pension equal to 66% of their average base pay after working 30 years while private sector retirees receive retirement benefits equal to 33% of their base pay after working 40 years (in California the average base pay of public servants is $68,000 while the average base pay of private workers is $41,500). Extrapolated to the United States as a whole, it is clear that the California model would mean that public sector retirees would cost taxpayers $862 billion per year, which is only 6% less than the entire bill for Social Security for more than six times as many people. In other words, local and state public sector workers (16% of the workforce in California) retire 10 years earlier with retirement benefits 33% greater than private sector workers (84% of the workforce) — all at the expense of the taxpayers. [The Cost of Retirement Security in America, Free Republic, January 1, 2011]

The public sector employees in a pension plan get a total benefit some 25% better than the private sector employee. That is a pretty good incentive to work in the public sector. [Defined-benefit Public Sector Pensions: A Bad Habit Continues, The Economist, February 21, 2011]

If private citizens cannot collect Social Security benefits until age 62, and if the maximum Social Security benefit is $21,636 per individual, then why are federal employees allowed to retire at age 50 and why aren't their pensions capped at $21,636 per individual. Since 1987, federal employees including members of Congress have had the benefit of three guaranteed income payments in their retirement [for many federal retirees, their income is virtually unchanged — their retirement income is almost as much as their income while still employed by the federal government; and because they can retire so young, many of them start a second government career, double dipping into the public treasury].

Federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) can take regular optional retirement if they are 55 with at least 30 years of service; age 60 with 20 years of service; or age 62 with 5 years. If the agency offers early retirement, they must be at least 50 with 20 years of service or have 25 years of service at any age. An employee under FERS also is eligible for an immediate annuity if he/she has 10 years of service and has reached the minimum retirement age (55 if born before 1948, and gradually increasing to 57). An employee under CSRS must meet the 1-out-of-last-2 year's coverage requirement and all employees must have at least 5 years of civilian service. [Source]

Currently, U.S. citizens cannot collect Social Security benefits until age 62 (lawmakers are considering raising this age to 67 or 70). The maximum Social Security benefit at age 62 is $21,636 per individual. [Source]

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is an independent agency of the United States government to guarantee payment of basic pension benefits earned by more than 44 million American workers participating in more than 27,000 private-sector defined benefit pension plans. If a company ends its pensions and hands the obligation for future payments to the PBGC, the agency limits how much it will pay, with the current top benefit now $54,000 a year for people who retire at 65; less for those who retire earlier. [Source]

2011 Federal Pay Scale Tables (GS) and No Raise from 2010 Levels as Obama Freezes Employee Pay

Saving to Inve$t

Following President Obama’s Federal employee pay freeze, 2011 GS tables remain the same as 2010. This includes the special base rates for GS law enforcement officers (GL) at GS grades 3 through 10. Unfortunately this means that the proposed raises discussed in previous updates below will not come to pass in 2011. The latest table is shown below, with rates effective from January 2011.

By 2009, in contrast, more than 70 percent of the workforce was GS 8 or higher.

The General Schedule consists of 15 pay grades and 10 steps within those pay grades. GS grades 1 through 7 denote entry-level positions, while grades 8 through 12 mark mid-level positions and grades 13 through 15 are top-level and management positions. The General Schedule also incorporates locality pay adjustments to account for cost-of-living differences across the country and overseas.

2003 marked a drastic change in the way federal employees are paid due to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (on March 1, 2003, the agency formally came into existence) and the full implementation of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, which provides for locality pay adjustments. P.L. 101-509 authorized locality-based pay adjustments for civilian federal employees in specified occupations and geographic locations to "reflect the salary levels of private-sector workers in similar occupations in those areas." The original objective of the civil service locality pay program was to bring federal salaries to within 5% of private sector salaries over a nine-year period (1994 through 2002).
"Coming on the heels of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) similar authorities regarding pay, 2003 represented a turning point in the way federal employees are compensated for their work. This year we should have been celebrating our second year of full comparability under the FEPCA, since the year 2002 should have represented the milestone for a complete realization of the local comparability system for federal General Schedule (GS) employees. Under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FECPA), the 10-year phase-in of locality pay adjustments should have been completed, with the end result of GS workers finally being paid salaries comparable to the private sector on a locality by locality basis." [From the General Schedule Pay System for Federal Employees and FEPCA]

2002 General Schedule (GS) Base Pay Rates


(Net Increase: 4.52%)

Effective January 2002

Annual Rates by Grade and Step

Note that in 1997 (see chart below), the base salaries—that is the salaries before local pay was factored in—ranged from $12,669 for a GS grade 1, step 1, to $92,161 for a GS grade 15, step 10.
Locality pay can make a considerable difference in your actual pay. You can use this pay calculator to see how much locality pay for a specific area is over base pay for the General Schedule. For example, the locality pay factor for the Washington D.C.-Baltimore-Northern Virginia area is 24.22%.

Chronology of General Schedule Pay Legislation
General Schedule pay tables from 1949 to 1993
2011 Federal Pay Schedules and GS Locality Pay Tables

The Gap Between What Americans are Paid and What We Pay Our 'Public Servants' has More Than Doubled Since 2000

Over the last few years, the number of feds getting automatic grade promotions -- also called "career ladder" promotions -- has jumped dramatically, reports Federal Times. According to data gathered by the publication, more than 108,000 feds got such promotions last year, along with accompanying raises that provide salary boosts ranging from about 10 percent to 20 percent. [Source]

By FortLiberty.com

Since 2000, pay for Americans has increased an average of 8.8%. At the same time, pay for federal government employees has increased by 36.9% — more than four times as fast.

Federal government employees have received larger average pay and benefit increases than private employees every year for the last nine straight years.

The net effect of this uncontrolled spending is that the gap between what Americans are paid and what we pay our “public servants” has more than doubled since 2000. In 2000, federal employees enjoyed a $30,415 advantage over people working in the private sector, by 2009 this number had risen to $61,998. The average working stiff earned $61,051 in total compensation in 2009. The comparable number for federal government employees — a staggering $123,049.

And yet, in spite of all of this, President Obama is still pushing for another 1.4% across-the-board pay raise for two million federal employees — regardless of performance. In addition, those same workers will also be eligible for automatic pay raises due only to seniority. How many of you will receive a pay raise this year, regardless of your performance?

The worst part of this is that the majority of existing federal workers are doing “jobs” which are unauthorized by the United States Constitution. Even if we manage to cut their fat salaries by half, we will still have more than a million unnecessary federal employees whose “contribution” to the U.S. economy consists mainly of creating forms for the rest of us to fill out.

It seems clear to me now, as it should be to you, that the federal bureaucrats are America’s new ruling class and that ordinary taxpayers are their unwilling slaves.

Thousands Get Guaranteed Promotions, Huge Raises

Congress froze the pay of federal employees, not including military, effective 2011, and which is still in effect for 2012 to date. However, the feds have found a way around this by giving bonuses and step increases with huge raises.

Federal Times
March 19, 2012

The number of federal employees getting automatic grade promotions has skyrocketed, prompting experts to ask whether managers are abandoning their responsibilities to make personnel decisions.

The number of so-called "career ladder promotions" — which can boost an employee's pay by more than $10,000 a year, in some cases — jumped roughly 75 percent in the last three years, according to federal data. Last year, more than 108,000 employees received career ladder promotions, accounting for 35 percent of all promotions to a higher grade in the government last year. That's up from about 21 percent in 2008.

These promotions enable newly hired employees to quickly move up the ranks of the General Schedule and other personnel systems virtually automatically. Instead of advancing to the next step in their grade after a year on the job — which provides a roughly 3 percent increase — employees move up one or two entire grades. That gives them anywhere from a 10 percent to a 20 percent raise in one year.

Some employees receive career ladder promotions several years in a row as they advance to their full promotion level.

Last year — the first year of a freeze to federal pay scales — the raises accompanying career ladder promotions cost the government [taxpayers] between $634 million and $852 million, according to Federal Times calculations based on promotion statistics obtained from the Office of Personnel Management.

Career ladder promotions are intended to provide a path for employees who come in at the entry level to advance — without competition — as they learn new skills. Some federal personnel experts say it also has the effect of encouraging retention of young employees because their pay increases quickly.
Surveys show new feds' job satisfaction plunges after about three years, and the government fears that will make it tougher to hold on to these employees.

However, the use of career ladder promotions exploded in the post-recession period, while the private-sector job market remained extremely soft nationwide and the government was one of the few industries still hiring.

Government Employees — the True 1 Percent

Bureaucrats are bought and paid for by the beast that is world government. The government badge gives them a sense of entitlement, and they no longer serve the people first but serve their own self interests. They reward themselves generously from the public treasury.

Wayne Allyn Root
March 6, 2012

How did America become broke and insolvent? How did we build up an unimaginable $115 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities? How did we allow the American Dream to become a nightmare?
All we need do is look at the primary demand the Eurozone and IMF are placing on hopelessly bankrupt Greece to get their new $170 Billion bailout — Greece has agreed to cut 150,000 government employees. Even Cuba’s leader Raul Castro recognizes government employees are at the root of economic destruction, as he is cutting over 2 million of them to save Cuba from bankruptcy.

The truth is that government employees are the true 1%. We have far too many of them (21 million), many of them are paid too much, and their union demands are straining taxpayers to the breaking point. [Note that the 21 million does not include the hidden workforce of government contractors.]

They have become a privileged class that expects to be treated superior to the taxpayers — the same folks who pay their salaries and pensions. But it is their obscene pensions that are the big problem moving forward for America.

How would you like to retire with $6 million? $8 million? $10 million? All you have to do is become a government employee to hit the jackpot.

You don’t believe me? Do the math.

I recently talked with a retired New York City toll taker. His salary averaged about $70,000 per year over 20 years. But in his last few years he worked loads of overtime and added in accumulated sick days to get his salary in those final years up to $150,000.

Federal Employees Enjoy a Higher Standard of Living Than Those Who Pay Their Salaries

The graph below shows which groups of workers can afford to live in the most expensive suburbs of America.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2009, median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009. On the contrary, federal pay for civilian employees increased by 3.5% in 2008, by 3.9% in 2009, and by 2% in 2010; there was no increase in 2011 (the proposed increase for 2011 was 1.4%).

Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.

According to the Cato Institute (May 2006), since 1990, average compensation has increased 115% in the government and 69% in the private sector, while average wages have increased 104% in the government and 65% in the private sector.

Federal government workers have notoriously earned more than — in many cases more than double — their private sector counterparts for a while. The shocking size and scope of pay increases for federal workers is most notable in recent years: from 2000 - 2008, the average federal worker's total compensation increased by 50%. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data for 2008, the average federal employee made $79,197, excluding benefits; when benefits were added in, the average federal employee's total compensation was $119,982. The average private sector employee made $49,935; when benefits were added in, the average private employee's total compensation was $59,909. Stated differently, the benefit cost for the average federal employee back in 2008 was $40,785; the average benefit cost for private sector employees for the same year was $9,974.

According to the USA TODAY analysis of Office of Personnel Management data, the number of federal workers earning salaries of $150,000 or more has increased tenfold over the past five years and has doubled since President Obama took office in January 2009.

While the rest of the U.S. economy remains stagnant, federal salaries have grown robustly in recent years. Government-wide raises for top-paid staff have increased in every department and agency.

The Defense Department had nine civilians earning $170,000 or more in 2005, 214 when Obama took office, and 994 in June.

The biggest pay hikes have gone to employees who have been with the government for 15 to 24 years. Since 2005, average salaries for this group climbed 25% compared with a 9% inflation rate.

Federal workers earning $150,000 or more now make up 3.9% of the country’s workforce, up from just 0.4% in 2005. Members of Congress earn $174,000, up from $141,300 in 2000, an increase below the rate of inflation.

Your Tax Receipt for the Management of Federal Employees and Retirees

Management of federal employees and buildings (1.4%) $47,980,000,000
Federal retirement and disability benefits (3.2%) $110,061,000,000
Federal employees and retirees health benefits (0.2%) $7,140,000,000
General Services Administration (0.0%) $861,000,000
Office of Personnel Management administration (0.0%) $253,000,000
Merit Systems Protection Board (0.0%) $38,000,000
Legal services for government employees and applicants (0.0%) $18,000,000
Office of Government Ethics (0.0%) $13,000,000
Administrative support for federal agencies (0.0%) $1,000,000
Government reports and information distribution (0.0%) -$7,000,000
Federal employee flexible spending account reserve fund (0.0%) -$15,000,000
Federal employee life insurance benefit (0.0%) -$1,455,000,000
Federal payment for employer share of Medicare taxes (-0.1%) -$4,042,000,000
Department of Defense Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund (-0.2%) -$7,780,000,000
Fed payment for employer share of Social Security taxes (-0.4%) -$14,936,000,000
Fed payment for employer share of retirement & disability (-1.2%) -$42,170,000,000

Your Federal Salary Isn't Private; Here is Database of Postal Service Employees and Salaries

March 26, 2010

How much does an individual federal employee make?

We did an article on this topic last year (See How Much Does an Individual Federal Employee Make? It Isn't Hard to Find Out) and it generated considerable interest among our readers.

We also noted that the database of federal employees and their salaries does not include employees involved in security work, the FBI, CIA, Defense Department, nuclear materials, IRS, and jobs essential to national security are excluded from the database. The database referenced in that article also does not include Postal Service employees.

For some readers, it is unsettling to find out that their annual salary is so readily available to neighbors who may be nosy - especially if you have just purchased a new car or bought your spouse a nice present that everyone has noticed. The reality is that finding out a federal employee's salary is easy and the information can be quickly located to anyone with a computer and access to the internet.

A new database for 2010 has been published and it contains the latest data on salaries for Postal Service employees.

The database provides a researcher with considerable flexibility. For example, if you want to find an employee by title, there is an option to do that.

I picked a title at random: Vice-President for Employee Resources and found the name of the person at the Postal Service in this position. As it turns out, she makes $186,000 per year.

Or, if you live in a small town and are curious about how much those folks make who work for the Postal Service, it isn't hard to find out. I grew up in a small town in Vermont. In a town of about 500 people, most people who live there for awhile know everyone and, no doubt, people are curious about how much the folks they see on the street and in the Post Office are making. I typed in the small town zip code and found out that the local postmaster there makes $76,320 a year and there are two other employees there making $19 per hour. I was surprised to see that someone I went to school with in grade school is now working at the Post Office there and she has a decent income.

Unfortunately, the information is also available to people who may have a reason for wanting to know your salary for reasons other than idle curiosity. If, for example, an unhappy spouse wants to know how much you are making before initiating divorce proceedings, the information is there with a few simple keystrokes.

Government Pay


This is a directory of links to federal, state, county and municipal government salary and employee name databases. These searchable databases of salaries, pay, overtime and compensation of government workers are compiled by news organizations, open government advocates and government agencies.

Pay Scales at TSA (2010)

From the Transportation Security Agency Website

We are unique among our fellow Federal employees because we do not use the standard GS grading system you may be familiar with. We use an "SV" grading system, which is a system of discrete grades with pay ranges that differ from GS pay ranges. These discrete grades, which are identified by letters rather than numbers, have minimum and maximum rates.

In the table below, we show the ranges for each pay band.

Pay Band Minimum Maximum
A $17,083 $24,977
B $19,570 $28,546
C $22,167 $33,303
D $25,518 $38,277
E $29,302 $44,007
F $33,627 $50,494
G $39,358 $60,982
H $48,007 $74,390
I $58,495 $90,717
J $71,364 $110,612
K $85,311 $132,237
L $101,962 $155,500
M $120,236 $155,500

The above rates are basic pay rates and do not include locality pay. 2010 basic pay rates are limited to $155,500. 2010 adjusted pay rates (base pay plus locality) are limited to $172,550.

71% Believe Government Workers Get Better Pensions Than Those In Private Sector

Rasmussen Reports
March 4, 2011

Most voters believe those who work for the government get better retirement benefits than those who work for private companies and also think it’s unlikely their state can afford the benefits given to state workers. 

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of Likely U. S. Voters feel that, generally speaking, government workers get better pensions than private sector workers. Only 14% disagree, while slightly more (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

However, just 32% of all voters say it’s at least somewhat likely that their state will be able to afford all the pension benefits it has promised to state workers while 56% say it’s not likely. Those figures include 8% who say it is Very Likely and 16% who say it is Not At All Likely.

Voters strongly believe that government workers should wait until around age 65 to begin collecting full pension benefits. If someone joins the police force at age 20 and stays for 25 years, only 28% believe that person should receive a full pension for life at age 45. Sixty-one percent (61%) think they should find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive the full pension from their police work. 

Similarly, if someone becomes a teacher right out of college and stays for 30 years until they retire, just 36% say they should receive their full pension for life at that time. Fifty-six percent (56%), however, say they should find another job and wait until they retire around age 65 to get their full teaching pension.

Most Americans continue to believe government workers also have more job security than those in the private sector and that they don’t work as hard as private sector workers. 

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 2-3, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Sixty-five percent (65%) of government employees believe that their pensions are better than those of private sector workers, a view shared by 77% of those employed by a private company.
Perhaps not surprisingly since most unionized public employees are aligned with the Democratic Party, a plurality (48%) of Democrats say their state is at least somewhat likely to be able to meet promised pension benefits. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republicans and 65% of voters not affiliated with either major party say that’s unlikely.

Governors in Wisconsin and New Jersey, battling large budget deficits, are at the forefront of efforts around the country to get unionized state employees to pay more for their health and pension benefits. In some states, these employees pay little or nothing toward those benefits, while nearly all private sector employees have sizable sums deducted from their paychecks for such benefits. 

Male and female voters are in general agreement when it comes to the timing of police pensions, but women are more inclined to favor early benefits for teachers than men are.

Mainstream voters feel much more strongly than those in the Political Class that government workers have better pension benefits. Yet while 64% of Political Class voters think it’s likely that their state can afford the pension benefits promised to state workers, 70% of those in the Mainstream disagree.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of all voters say they have followed recent news stories about pension plans provided for government employees, with 50% who say they are following Very Closely. 

Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters nationwide think that in their state the average public employee earns more than the average private sector worker. Twenty-one percent (21%) say the government employee earns less, while 20% think their pay is about the same. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.

Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers but a plurality are supportive of significant pay cuts for state workers. As Governor Scott Walker and public employee unions battle in the court of public opinion, Wisconsin voters continue to see spending cuts as the proper path to solving the state’s budgetary woes.

How Government Pensions are Robbing You

Federal, state and local employees' pensions are so lavish, shrinking them to what private employers provide could cut your tax bill by 8%.

MONEY Magazine
Originally Published on October 1, 1994

The gaps between the princely pensions that public employees often collect and what the rest of us get are so astounding that they seem to have been exaggerated by a task force of bureaucrat-bashing Limbaughites.

Read these numbers and -- unless you're a public servant yourself -- seethe:
  • A state or local government worker earning $35,000 a year with 30 years on the job who retires at age 65 can expect an annual pension of about $18,000, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute of Washington, D.C. For comparable federal employees, the pension figure runs as high as $19,700. But a similar private-sector worker would get only about $10,000 a year, or as much as 49% less.
  • State governments on average spend 14.3% of payroll on pensions; for local governments it's 17.5%, and at the federal level it's a Beltway-size 25% of payroll, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. (Despite a 1983 law intended to reform federal pensions, the OPM expects that 25% to grow to 40% by 2020.) As a reality check, however, private companies with pensions spend only 3.6% of payroll on such plans, on average, according to a 1991 study by Greenwich Associates, a financial consulting and research group in Greenwich, Conn.
  • Moreover, many government workers enjoy two perks that almost no private employer could afford to offer. One is "spiking," a questionable practice that has been raising strong reactions around the country, as the newspaper clips on pages 138 and 139 attest. Spiking allows state and local employees to load up on pension credits at the end of their careers in order to inflate their pensions. Sometimes spiking actually manages to let them retire with higher incomes than they earned while working. The other retirement bennie, handed out by the federal government and most state and local governments, is an annual cost-of-living adjustment, which immunizes pensions from the ravages of inflation. According to Hastings Keith, co-chairman of the National Committee on Public Employee Pension Systems in Washington, D.C., $19 billion -- more than half of the total annual cost of federal civil service pensions -- pays for COLAs alone.
So government pensions are now significantly more generous than private ones (for more evidence. Why should you care? Simply because an increasingly significant portion of your taxes goes to pay for those overstuffed public pensions.

Money calculates that if government pensions were cut to the same level as the average for private industry, taxpayers would have saved $56 billion last year, enough to cut individual federal, state and local income taxes by almost 8%.

As these ballooning pensions continue to swell, they'll likely lead to cuts in necessary government services that your taxes pay for.
"Pension promises get made to employees, then become part of the general budget. That in turn narrows what you can spend on absolutely everything else, from getting potholes filled to keeping fire stations open," says Terry Clark, a University of Chicago professor of sociology.
The upshot: Federal, state and municipal governments, unwilling or unable to keep their pension promises by adding the required amount of money each year, are currently underfunded by a monumental $1.8 trillion. That's more than triple the $586 billion in individual income taxes collected last year by the Internal Revenue Service. By comparison, the far more publicized shortfall in corporate pension funding is a relatively tiny $53 billion. Warns John Erlenborn, a Washington, D.C. attorney and pension specialist who is a former Republican representative from Illinois:
"By the third decade in the 21st century, the public-pension crisis will be much, much greater than the savings and loan bailout. In fact, this one could be several orders of magnitude larger."
Comparing public and private pensions helps explain how the public obligation has turned into a monster. The differences fall under two broad headings: overcoverage and underfunding.

The ungodly details: The pampered civil servant

The blessing of a pension is available to just about every federal, state and local employee. By contrast, fewer than 40% of people employed in private industry work for firms that offer pension plans, according to data collected by the Employee Benefits Research Institute in Washington, D.C. The public pensions, in turn, represent a generous percentage of the public employee's increasingly superior pay.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in 1993 the average private worker received a salary of $28,907; for state and local government employees the figure was $30,039 and for the feds, a relatively handsome $35,690.

Furthermore, the bipartisan American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of state legislators in Belleville, Ill., reports that state and local government employees' compensation rose an inflation-adjusted 14.6% during the '80s, the latest period for which figures are available, compared with just 2.4% for private-sector workers. In the past three years federal -- wages increased by an average of roughly 6.2% a year, vs. 3.9% for private workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In August, President Clinton announced that federal white-collar employees would get a pay increase averaging 2.6% next year. Consider the powerful leveraging effect of this higher pay plus the more generous formulas used to calculate public pensions.

Half of Americans Don’t Have a 401(k) or Pension; Federal Employees Have Both as Part of a 3-Tiered Retirement Plan

U.S. News & World Report
November 30, 2009

Fewer than half of U.S. workers participate in any kind of employment-based retirement plan. Just 40.4 percent of employees utilized a 401(k) or pension in 2008, down from 41.5 percent in 2007, according to a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. That translates to about 63.7 million workers who saved for retirement through a workplace program last year, considerably below the 67.1 million employees who participated in 2000.

Part of the problem is that only 50.6 percent of Americans work for an employer that sponsors a retirement savings plan. But even among full-time workers between the ages of 21 and 64, the group most likely to be offered a retirement plan at work, just 54.8 percent utilized the retirement account or pension plan, down from 55.3 percent in 2007.

Significantly more public-sector employees (75 percent) participated in a retirement plan than private-sector workers (41 percent). And employees on the verge of retirement between the ages of 55 and 64 participated in higher numbers (55 percent) than young workers age 21 to 24 (19 percent). Among large employers with 1,000 or more workers, 56 percent were saving for retirement through a workplace plan, compared to 16 percent at companies with 10 or fewer employees.

That leaves 78 million Americans who work for an employer or union that did not sponsor a retirement plan and 94.1 million workers who did not participate in a plan, the study found. Craig Copeland, a senior research associate for EBRI and author of the study, says additional decreases in retirement plan participation are possible in 2010.

The continued freezing of traditional pensions and shift to self-directed 401(k) retirement plans may continue to diminish the use of retirement savings plans, he writes. But the growing incidence of companies automatically enrolling workers in 401(k) plans unless they opt out could contribute to retirement account participation remaining near the level it is now.

Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS):

Federal employees have stools with three legs made of solid mahogany. In the FERS, government employees contribute 0.8 percent of pay while their employing agencies [taxpayers] put in 11 percent of pay. On top of that, federal employees can contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan and get a 5 percent matching contribution from their employing agency [taxpayers]. This match is immediately vested to boot. According to the CRS report, "All participants in FERS are immediately vested in their own contributions and in government matching contributions to the TSP, as well as any investment earnings on these contributions." And the third leg for most federal employees is Social Security. If it gives you any comfort, they contribute to FICA to the same extent that everyone else does. [Going postal over federal pensions, Bankrate.com, March 25, 2011]

New legislation aims to cut federal pensions for all new employees hired after 2012, citing a need to bring benefits in line with those in the private sector. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Thursday introduced a bill (S. 644) that would eliminate the pension portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System for all new government hires beginning in 2013. The legislation would not affect Thrift Savings Plan benefits and agency-matching contributions. Nor would it affect FERS pensions for current federal employees and retirees. It would, however, apply to members of Congress. [Senator Proposes Cuts to Federal Annuity Benefits, Government Executive, March 18, 2011]

In addition, an influential panel of military advisors called the Defense Business Board laid out their plan in a 24-page presentation, “Modernizing the Military Retirement System,” which would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years in the U.S. military is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they’d get a 401k-style plan with government contributions and have to wait until the normal retirement age. [Military Eying Radical Change to Retirement Pay, Colonel6's Blog, August 15, 2011]

If you are under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), you can take regular optional retirement if you are 55 with at least 30 years of service; age 60 with 20 years of service; or age 62 with 5 years. If your agency offers early retirement, you must be at least 50 with 20 years of service or have 25 years of service at any age. An employee under FERS also is eligible for an immediate annuity if he/she has 10 years of service and has reached the minimum retirement age (55 if born before 1948, and gradually increasing to 57). An employee under CSRS must meet the 1-out-of-last-2 year's coverage requirement and all employees must have at least 5 years of civilian service. [Source]

If you have retired or resigned with an incentive payment and take a job in another federal agency, you must repay the entire amount of the incentive if you take a job with the Federal Government within 5 years of your separation date with the incentive payment. This repayment requirement covers any kind of employment (for example, permanent, temporary, expert, consultant, reemployed annuitant) as well as personal services contracts. You are not entitled to any placement assistance or selection priority because employees volunteer to leave Federal service with an incentive payment. Placement assistance is for employees who are involuntarily separated. [Source]


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2008, the average federal employee made $79,197 [the average private sector employee made $49,935]. The pension for the average employee can be calculated as follows:

$79,197 x 30 Years x 1% = $23,759
$79,197 x 40 Years x 1% = $31,678

Understanding the FERS Retirement

When we talk about your FERS Retirement, we're really talking about several different benefits. FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) has three main components:
  1. Basic FERS Pension
  2. Social Security
  3. Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
Your FERS pension and Social Security will be fixed dollar amounts. But the money you get from your TSP will depend on how much you contributed and how well you managed the money.

As a FERS, you have a chance to take a more active role in managing your own retirement than CSRS do. But, that means you need to stay up-to-date on your benefits.

Here are some important things you need to know about each part of your FERS retirement...

Reductions to Your FERS Pension

There are some choices you can make that will reduce the amount of your FERS pension:
Thrift Savings Plan for FERS 

Note: Taxpayers are required to match contributions of up to 5% of wages for each federal employee under the Thrift Savings Plan; most private companies don’t match as much.The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a special account for Federal Employees. The TSP was created as part of the Federal Employees Retirement System in 1986. Most government employees (FERS and CSRS) are eligible for the TSP even those hired before it was created.

The TSP allows you to save pre-tax dollars in a special personal account. You can choose how to invest those dollars although your choices are limited.

With your FERS retirement pension and Social Security, you will receive fixed amounts. But with your TSP, the amount you receive depends on how much you put in and how well you managed the money.

Your TSP contributions are optional and separate from your FERS pension.

You may also be able to get your Federal Agency [taxpayers] to contribute money to your TSP. Click here to learn more about the match the government gives FERS employees.

Social Security for FERS 

Employees covered under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) are typically eligible to receive Social Security benefits when they retire. Every pay period, the Federal Government takes out 6.2% of your basic pay to put towards Social Security. But just like your FERS pension, your Social Security benefit is not based on your contributions - it is based on other factors.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Social Security taxes you and other workers pay into the system are used to pay for Social Security benefits.

You pay Social Security taxes on your earnings up to a certain amount. That amount increases each year to keep pace with wages. In 2011, that amount is $106,800.

You pay Medicare taxes on all of your wages or net earnings from self-employment. These taxes are used for Medicare coverage.

You pay 4.2%* 1.45%
Your employer pays 6.2% 1.45%
You pay 10.4% 2.9%

Currently, U.S. citizens cannot collect Social Security benefits until age 62 (lawmakers are considering raising this age to 67 or 70). The maximum Social Security benefit at age 62 is $21,636 per individual.

* The employee contribution was temporary lowered from 6.2% to 4.2% on January 1, 2011.

CSRS & FERS 20 Year Retirement Eligibility


A special 20-year retirement system was created for certain designated positions which require employees to meet vigorous physical demands.  Because of the physical demands, this retirement system allows employees to retire sooner, with just 20 years of service.  It also includes a mandatory retirement when the employee reaches a designated age or years of service.

Eligibility to retire under the special 20-year provision depends on the both the retirement system (CSRS or FERS) and the position.

Positions covered under the 20-year retirement system
  • Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)
  • Firefighters (FF)
  • Air Traffic Controllers (ATC)
  • Nuclear Weapons Couriers (NWC)

Reforming Federal Pensions

By Jim Kessler and David Kendall, ThirdWay.org
September 2010

Federal employees enjoy one of the most generous retirement plans in the country. One major part of their benefits—the Federal Employment Retirement System—has the patina of budget neutrality. FERS is financed completely through contributions to ensure that there will not be shortfalls when federal retirees receive their pension. But because of a quirk in the law dating back to 1986, contributions into the system are skewed dramatically against the taxpayer. For every one dollar that is contributed into FERS by the employee, $14 is contributed by the employer, the taxpayer. If employers and employees contributed equally to the fund as is often the case in the private sector, taxpayers would save $114 billion over ten years and $271 billion over twenty—without affecting federal pension benefit payouts.


Financing the federal retirement system is more expensive than it should be.

Federal retirement is funded through an antiquated formula.

Since 1987, federal employees including members of Congress have had the benefit of three guaranteed income payments in their retirement.
  1. First, like nearly all other workers, they receive Social Security.
  2. Second, like many workers, they have a 401k-style plan with an employer match (known as the Thrift Savings Plan or TSP).
  3. And third, like most public sector workers, they also receive a traditional pension through a system known as FERS (the federal employment retirement system).
This three-legged retirement system is more generous than what most other middle class families receive in retirement, but it is not opulent. It guarantees a comfortable, though not luxurious, retirement for long-term federal employees.

In 1986, Congress enacted FERS to replace a long-standing federal pension program known as CSRS (civil service retirement system). CSRS was more generous to employees than FERS, but with a catch. CSRS recipients did not receive Social Security and they did not contribute to Social Security payroll taxes. In 1983, as part of an effort to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund, new federal employees were placed in a new federal retirement system and they began contributing to Social Security through FICA, the payroll taxes that nearly all employees pay. This was the beginning of FERS.

At the time, lawmakers decided that the new FERS and existing CSRS employees would contribute the exact same amount for their retirement—including FICA contributions. At the time, CSRS employees contributed 7% to their retirement and so did the taxpayer. Because FERS employees would now contribute 6.2% to FICA, the new law limited the employee contribution to FERS to 0.8% of wages. And because Congress required FERS to be completely self-financed, all of the remaining contribution is made by each federal agency for its employees. This works out to 11.2% of federal employee wages, or $14 contributed by the employer for every one dollar that is contributed by the employee.

It is questionable whether there ever needed to be parity between CSRS and FERS workers in the first place, but it is absolutely unnecessary today. Only federal workers employed before 1984 are eligible for CSRS. Four out of every five federal employees today are under FERS and very soon they will all be under FERS. The problem meant to be solved by the parity requirement between CSRS and FERS no longer exists.

Private retirement plans usually split the bill evenly between employers and employees.

Social Security is funded by employers and employees each paying 6.2% of wages into the system. Under private 401(k) programs, employers and employees each make a matching contribution into an individually-directed retirement account.

Federal employees and the government make matching contributions of up to 5% of wages each under the Thrift Savings Plan; most private companies don’t match as much.

And while the costs of a traditional defined benefit pension plan such as FERS are often hidden from the employee, the cost is essentially shared. According to the Department of Labor, about 52% of all private sector pension funds (taking into account defined benefit and defined contribution plans) are contributed by the employer and 48% by the employee.

FERS is unnecessarily expensive for taxpayers.

By themselves, neither FERS nor the Thrift Savings Plans differ much from their private sector counterparts. Together, however, they are much more generous than retirement packages offered by comparable private sector employers.

Today, the federal government contributes a total 12.7% of wages to FERS and the Thrift Savings Plan. By comparison, private employers in similar sectors of the economy (e.g., management, professional services, and information businesses) contribute 5.3% of payroll for their workers’ retirement as show in the chart below.

This comparison also takes into account the older age of the federal workforce, which is nearing retirement sooner and requires higher pension funding levels.

Over the next ten years, taxpayers will contribute more than $263 billion to fund FERS, which is considerably more than what the federal government spends on college financial aid through Pell grants. Over the next twenty years, taxpayer contributions will reach roughly $626 billion. Employee contributions are miniscule—less than $20 billion over ten years and less than $50 billion over twenty years.


Modernize FERS to make employers and employees equal partners.

If employers and employees were to contribute equally to FERS, taxpayers would save $114 billion over ten years, $271 billion over twenty years, and $702 billion by 2050.

This sends an important message to the public: Congress and Feds will take the first hit.

If we are going to achieve meaningful fiscal discipline, Congress, the White House, and the federal government must take the first step and take the first significant cuts as an example to the rest of the country.

Third Way polling shows that three-fourths of Americans believe that cutting government spending and getting rid of government waste is the key to balancing the federal budget.

Federal employees will still receive fair treatment for a comfortable retirement.

Pension benefit payouts will not change whatsoever. Today, a federal employee who works for 30 years and retires with an average “high-three”* salary of $70,000—about the average wage of a federal employee—would:

• Receive a yearly pension of $23,100 that increases at CPI minus 1% each year, just as today.
• Receive Social Security payments of approximately $24,000 that increases by CPI, just as today.
• Have a TSP nest egg that would create an annuity of about $20,000 per year, just as today.

This comes out to roughly $67,000 per year, or approximately the entire replacement salary of an employee’s most lucrative years on the federal payroll. And that is on top of any private savings or spouse benefits. The only change would be that federal employees would be paying for a greater portion of the funding of their pension.

Taxpayers would save hundreds of billions of dollars.

In 2011, taxpayers will pay roughly $19 billion to fund future federal pensions, while federal employees will contribute just over $1 billion. By 2030, taxpayers will fund close to $38 billion to fund future pensions, while federal employees will contribute about $3 billion.

That is simply unfair to taxpayers and a burden that would never occur in the private sector. If there were contribution parity, the savings would increase from $9 billion in 2011 to $18 billion in 2030 and over $30 billion in 2050.


This will harm federal employees.

Federal employees will definitely pay a price, but only as far as they will have to accept the same arrangement offered to most workers. Pension contributions that were once financed almost exclusively by taxpayers will now be shared equally. That is the way it is done for Social Security, 401k-style retirement programs, and most private pension plans. Federal employees, through a quirk in the law that was meant to solve a problem that no longer exists, have gotten a very generous deal for the last 25 years. It is time for all federal employees to pay their fair share.

This will harm veterans and military retirees.

Not true. This covers only those in FERS—federal employees, congressional employees, members of Congress, and judicial branch employees. Military retirees are covered under a separate program administered by the Department of Defense.

Why didn’t you propose a similar change in CSRS financing?

CSRS is financing is already equally shared—7% by the employer and 7% by the employee—so there is no imbalance to rectify. Even if a contribution discrepancy did exist, there haven’t been any new CSRS-eligible employees added to the federal workforce on over 20 years. CSRS employees are quickly leaving the system and being replaced by FERS employees. Roughly four-fifths of current federal employees are under FERS and by the end of this decade very few CSRS employees will remain.

Isn’t another reason for reforming federal retirement that federal workers are paid more than private sector employees?

No, news reports that claim federal workers are overpaid compared to private workers are misleading. Making apples to apples comparison with the private sector doesn’t work because the characteristics of the workforce and the nature of the work are different. Generally, the federal workforce is more highly skilled than the average private employer’s workforce. Detailed analysis shows that federal employees’ salaries are roughly the same or less than private employees’ salaries. To address the controversy, however, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has recently called for a new analysis of salary comparisons. Such detailed analysis should include a comparison of the financing for federal retirement benefits, which Third Way estimates is more generous than for comparable private workers.

* Federal pension benefits are determined by a simple formula. It equals the average salary of the three most lucrative years of a person’s federal employments, multiplied by 1.1% (or 1.0% if the employee works for less than 20 years), and multiplied by the number of years of service. Thus, $70,000 as a “high three” multiplied by 1.1% equals $770 which is multiplied by 30 years for a total of $23,100.

Senator Proposes Cuts to Federal Annuity Benefits

S.644, Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act, is a bill to amend subchapter II of chapter 84 of title 5, United States Code, to prohibit coverage for annuity purposes for any individual hired as a Federal employee after 2012.GovExec.com

New legislation aims to cut federal pensions for all new employees hired after 2012, citing a need to bring benefits in line with those in the private sector. 

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Thursday introduced a bill (S. 644) that would eliminate the pension portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System for all new government hires beginning in 2013. The legislation would not affect Thrift Savings Plan benefits and agency-matching contributions. Nor would it affect FERS pensions for current federal employees and retirees. It would, however, 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."
Federal employees are eligible for pensions, retirement savings plans with up to 5 percent in matching contribution and retiree health care benefits above and beyond those available to private sector workers, according to Burr. He also asserted that FERS is underfunded by almost $1 billion and the Civil Service Retirement System by $673 billion. 

According to Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the agency match for FERS participants is dollar for dollar on the first 3 percent of pay contributed to the TSP, and 50 cents on the fourth and fifth percentage points contributed. Agencies [taxpayers] automatically put in 1 percent of basic pay for all new FERS enrollees regardless of the employee contribution. He noted, however, that the arrangement is not equal to a 5 percent total match.

The assertion that federal pension programs are underfunded is rejected by John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, who called the bill "cruel and useless."
"Sen. Burr is wrong on the facts and wrong on morals," Gage said. "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."

Bill Takes Aim at Retirement Benefits

Defined-benefit portion of FERS is at stake

Federal Computer Week
March 22, 2011

Two Republican senators introduced a bill that would end the defined-benefit portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System for new federal hires, starting in 2013. The bill would not affect benefits for current feds.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced the Public-Private Employee Retirement Parity Act March 17. The bill would apply to future federal employees, including members of Congress. FERS employees now receive a defined-benefit pension and also may participate in the Thrift Savings Plan, which is equivalent to a private-sector 401(k) retirement plan. 

In a joint statement, the senators said FERS is underfunded by nearly a billion dollars already, and as FERS accounts for more of the retirement burden in the future, required federal contributions to the FERS annuity will skyrocket. 

The bill would not affect the TSP portion of the FERS retirement benefit. Like a 401(k), TSP is a defined-contribution plan that depends on employee and employer contributions. TSP participants receive matching contributions from agencies [taxpayers] on as much as 5 percent of the pay that an employee contributes. Employees receive a dollar-for-dollar agency match for the first 3 percent of pay contributed, and a 50 percent match for the next 2 percent of pay contributed. Employee contributions above 5 percent are not matched.

Going Postal Over Federal Pensions

March 25, 2011

Last week Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced the Public-Private Employee Retirement Act of 2011 as a way to address the country's debt problems. While the legislation would end the defined benefit plan for future government workers beginning in 2013, it would not affect current employees and retirees. And it would leave in place the Thrift Savings Plan, which is the government version of the 401(k) plan -- only much better.
"Right now, federal government workers receive far more generous retirement benefits than private sector employees," said Burr in a press release posted on his website. "We cannot ask taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for public employee benefits that are far more generous than their own."
The federal retirement plan
You hear every day about the tremendous financial strain that state pension plans are under. But you don't hear much about the Federal Employees Retirement System, or FERS. Members of Congress have access to really good retirement bennies after only five years of service, though this would no longer be the case if this legislation actually passes. My bet is that it most assuredly will not.

But it does seem unfair that federal workers don't even have to do any retirement planning, compared to those in the private sector. The proverbial three-legged stool on which most Americans are supposed to base their retirements are wobbly at best. The legs consist of Social Security, pension benefits and savings. Since most Americans in the private sector don't have pensions, (or if they do, they are often inferior hybrids like cash-balance plans), their retirement plans are teetering on a two-legged stool.

But federal employees have stools with three legs made of solid mahogany. In the FERS, government employees contribute 0.8 percent of pay while their employing agencies put in 11 percent of pay (the amount may vary slightly from year to year). Members of Congress and their staff pay 1.3 percent toward FERS coverage, and "the Congress pays approximately 16 percent of payroll as the employer contribution," according to a CRS Report for Congress.

On top of that, federal employees can contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan and get a 5 percent matching contribution from their employing agency. This match is immediately vested to boot. According to the CRS report,
"All participants in FERS are immediately vested in their own contributions and in government matching contributions to the TSP, as well as any investment earnings on these contributions."
And the third leg for most federal employees is Social Security. If it gives you any comfort, they contribute to FICA to the same extent that everyone else does.

Disgruntled government workers

As you can imagine, federal workers are all fired up about this bill, judging from the comments on various blog posts. Governmentexecutive.com quotes John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, as saying the bill is "cruel and useless."
"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," Gage was quoted as saying.
It's interesting to read comments posted by government workers. On starnewsonline.com, William Shipman says he finds the bill appalling.
"While there may be some disparity between public and private employees, is it the fault of those who serve the public good that private employers have mismanaged private pensions to leave them unfunded and force their employees to trade a secure retirement for the casino that is the stock market?"
That's the casino where I put my chips.

Table 1. Federal Government civilian employment, except U.S. Postal Service, November 2008
(Employment in thousands)

United States
Washington MSA
1,909 320

Executive departments
Defense, total
Air Force
Veterans Affairs
Homeland Security
Health and Human Services
Housing and Urban Development
Independent agencies
Social Security Administration
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Environmental Protection Agency
General Services Administration
Office of Personnel Management
Smithsonian Institution
Judicial branch
Legislative branch
SOURCE: U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Only 9% of all private sector workers are now represented by a union, less than half the percentage of two decades ago. Meanwhile, the proportion of state and local workers with union representation has held steady over the same time, at about 43%... Government pensions are generally much richer than those offered by corporations. The average public sector employee now collects an annual pension benefit of 60% after 30 years on the job or 75% if he is one of the one-fifth or so of workers who are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. Of the corporate employers that still offer traditional pensions, the average benefit is equal to 45% of salary after 30 years... Just as important, about 80% of government retirees receive pensions that are increased each year to keep pace with the cost of living, a feature which protects pensions against the effects of inflation and that can increase the value of a typical pension by hundreds of thousands of dollars over a person's retirement. But such inflation protection is nonexistent in corporate plans. - Bankrupt Public Pensions: A Time Bomb That Will Explode, AnchorRising.com, May 16, 2005

Corporations have been moving away in massive numbers from the defined benefit programs that governments had emulated. In 2008, just 48,000 companies in the U.S. offered pension programs — down from 150,000 in 1988. Instead of maintaining costly pensions and committing to a lifetime of defined benefits for retirees, companies contributed to mobile retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s. The nation's workforce has also changed. By January 2010, for the first time, public employees made up the largest percentage of union workers. Several recent studies show that at least some public employees now make more than their private-sector counterparts, although that is not true across the board. - Public Pay, Benefits Set Off New 'Civil War', Star Tribune, February 13, 2011

Low-wage public-sector workers also had better access to retirement plans: 74% were eligible, compared with 40% in the private sector. - The Public Sector “Haves” Get Richer Benefits Too…, The Swine Line, July 28, 2010

Having public pensions being so superior and far better than private retirement savings — and the inevitable backlash this would produce — is one of the unavoidable adjustments similar to falling house prices. This huge gap of public employees being so much better compensated than private employees became visible about a year ago even in just ordinary news reports in the papers, for those that read widely. Just like falling house prices, this will be adjusted, sometimes by drastic action (similar to a foreclosure being drastic). The bottom line is that taxpayers cannot be expected to make public employees far more comfortable than themselves. - Hal Horvath, Pension Envy, Pension Crisis, On Point Radio, July 28, 2010

For decades, public sector unions have peddled the fantasy that government employees were paid less than their counterparts in the private sector. In fact, the pay disparity is the other way around. Government workers, especially at the federal level, make salaries that are scandalously higher than those paid to private sector workers. And let's not forget private sector workers not only have to be sufficiently productive to earn their paychecks, they also must pay the taxes that support the more generous jobs in the public sector. - Want to Get Rich? Work for Feds, Washington Examiner, April 29, 2010

One-third of the 2009 stimulus money went to state and local governments an obvious payoff to the public employee unions which gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats and got hundreds of billions of dollars in return, to insulate public employee unions from the effects of the recession which has affected everyone else. - Michael Barone, The Case Against the Public Employee Unions, Washington Examiner, April 20, 2010

S.644 Would Eliminate Pension Portion of the Federal Employees Retirement System
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