- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2010

President Obama called for a two-year federal civilian worker pay freeze Monday, fighting back against a sentiment that government workers have done better than private-sector workers during the economic slump.

The pay freeze would affect fiscal 2011, which began Oct. 1, and fiscal 2012, and over the course of 10 years would result in $60 billion in lower federal spending, officials said.

“This is a difficult decision. Federal workers are hard-working and dedicated,” said Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. “Today the president is clearly asking them to make a sacrifice. We believe it’s the first of many difficult steps ahead.”

White House officials said the move follows the president’s previous steps to freeze White House salaries and later to extend that freeze to all top political appointees. The freeze would not apply to those serving in the military.

The move needs congressional approval. Congress is already two months late on completing the fiscal 2011 spending bills, and that’s left an opening for Mr. Obama to propose freezing this year’s pay.

USA Today reported earlier this month that the number of federal workers earning more than $150,000 rose more than tenfold between 2005 and 2010, and has doubled in the two years since Mr. Obama took office. Mr. Obama’s independent commission on the deficit, due to report its findings Dec. 1, also has called for a federal pay freeze in its initial blueprint for slashing federal debt and deficit levels.

The White House said Monday’s decision was not based on those salary levels and was made because of the overall budget situation. Federal deficits have topped $1.2 trillion for the past two years, and the government’s debt is nearing $14 trillion.

Joseph Weber contributed to this report.