Even after the current round of furloughs is finished, government workers won’t be home free. Not by a long shot. In fact, the worst may be yet to come.
Feds face the prospect of even tougher times in 2014, which, in the government’s fiscal year calendar, begins Oct. 1 of this year. The upcoming fiscal year, some experts believe, will be when sequestration’s grip will really begin to tighten on the federal family jewels: Uncle Sam’s pension plan and the cradle-to-grave, highly-subsidized federal health insurance program.
Defense says it might have to consider layoffs (RIFs). If it does, some other agencies will follow suit. Congress and the White House will also propose various legislative packages that feds won’t like. Such as:
Requiring workers and retirees to pay a bigger chunk of their health insurance premiums. Uncle Sam now pays about 72 cents of every premium dollar for non-postal workers and retirees. If a voucher system is implemented, many people would wind up either paying a much bigger chunk of their premiums or switching to a more affordable (but perhaps not as desirable) health plan.
Reducing future cost of living adjustments for federal, military and Social Security retirees by as much as 0.4 percent a year.
Increasing the percentage of salary that feds and postals kick into their CSRS or FERS retirement packages.
Plus, a variety of perennial proposals — let’s call them the Usual Suspects — that have frightened feds for decades. They keep coming back, as new members of Congress reinvent the legislative wheel and look for ways to cut government costs or permit them to play a therapeutic round of whack-a-mole with you — the bureaucrat — standing in for the mole.
The Usual Suspects include a variety of minor to major proposed changes, including things like fiddling with the retirement formula so that future pension benefits would be based on an employee’s highest five-year average salary. Under current law, the high-three is the rule.
While many feds have fixated on the long-threatened high-three to high-five switch, leaders of groups representing feds and retirees say the bigger danger — and the most likely to happen — is to the COLA portion of the retirement plans and to changes in who-pays-how-much for health insurance.