- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

Most federal workers do their jobs, take pride in their work and like what they do. That said …

A small but doggedly pessimistic segment of the federal work force has spent the past 30 years waiting for the other shoe to drop. Call them the end-is-near crowd.

They begin each new year (for orthodox feds, that is Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year) worrying that their next pay raise will be frozen, or that they will have to pay a larger share of their health premiums (they currently pay an average 28 percent of the total premium for cradle-to-grave coverage), or in a worst-case scenario that their retirement benefits will be cut or that they will be forced to pay more for them.

Those who have been waiting for the bad news got it a couple of weeks ago, although it turned out not to be true.

What happened is that a national wire service reported, correctly, that the congressional budget resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 95) provided for $6.6 billion in spending cuts in federal retirement benefits. Newspapers nationwide — but none in this area — took it at face value.

They reported there would be a $6.6 billion cut in civil service retirement benefits. Working and retired feds in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, California, Wisconsin, Kentucky and other places where the reports were published or broadcast — making them seem even more severe — were not amused. Some were downright terrified.

The good news is the proposed cut applies to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., (the federal agency that oversees private sector pensions), not the federal civil service program.

Bottom line: It is a proposed cut in federal pension costs, but only as they apply to the federal agency that helps bail out (sometimes paying 50 cents on the dollar) companies that can’t keep up their retirement program.

But federal and postal workers, and federal retirees and survivors — roughly 7 million people in all — can rest assured they will continue to get the same level of benefits, indexed to inflation, with no problem.

Next on the what-to-worry-about list: The effect of global warming on independent federal agencies.

Mike Causey, senior editor at FederalNewsRadio.com, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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