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Pawlenty: Freeze federal worker salaries

WASHINGTON — On the heels of a report showing the number of federal workers making more than $150,000 a year has doubled over the last two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty today called for a freeze of federal salaries.

WASHINGTON — On the heels of a report showing the number of federal workers making more than $150,000 a year has doubled over the last two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty today called for a freeze of federal salaries.

“Federal workers making $150k has doubled under Obama. New GOP Congress should freeze salaries,” Pawlenty wrote this morning on Twitter.

USA Today reported that more than 82,000 federal employees earn $150,000 or more a year now — double how many did two years ago and more than ten times the 7,400 who did in 2005.

House Republicans are expected to push for a federal salary freeze in 2011, though the details of that are uncertain. For example, Congress has been generally unwilling to freeze salaries in the Defense Department, especially during times when troops are deployed in combat operations overseas. Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (who will chair the relevant committee that would consider such a move) told USA Today he supports going even further with a 10 percent pay cut across the board.

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That won’t be an easy sell, for the following reasons:

  • A good chunk of the federal workforce is unionized and under contract. I’m not staring at those contracts right now, but I’d be a bit surprised if union negotiators hadn’t anticipated this scenario and contracted a way to keep from getting cut, at the very least.
  • As mentioned above, cutting DOD is a very tough sell.
  • If DOD is exempted, what else? Veterans Affairs, perhaps? But VA physician salaries contribute a good chunk of that $150K-plus statistic.
  • If one cuts federal workers, the obvious second question is what about federal contractors, to whom much work (especially in Defense and security/intelligence) has been outsourced?
  • And what about the secondary arguments: Cutting anyone’s pay in an economic downturn might lead to all sorts of nasty things like loan defaults, an uptick in home foreclosures and the like.

That’s not to say Pawlenty’s plan can’t be done — it can. It’s just not as simple as it sounds in 140 characters.