Early-retirement bill offered
Again bucking for an idea whose time never seems to come, Sen. William Roth, R-Del., has introduced a bill that would let federal employees retire at age 50 or earlier.
Although Roth attached no numbers to his measure, he contends that the resulting savings would let the government run a leaner operation and put the savings into better salaries.
"In order to ultimately pay federal employees a higher salary itimes of increasing budget deficits, I believe we are going to have to slim down somewhat the federal work force," Roth says.
Early-outers could qualify under four standards, by retiring at anage with 25 years of service, at 50 with 20 years, at 55 with 15 years and at 57 with five years. Any federal employee retiring at age 54 or younger would lose 2 percent of benefits for each year under 55.
If Congress were to pass the legislation this year, governmenworkers would have November and December in which to decide on taking the option.
The Office of Personnel Management now can allow earlretirements only in agencies where major reductions-in-force, reorganizations or transfers of function are taking place.
OPM has opposed the Roth concept in the past and there is nsign that will change, although agency officials promised the senator last year they would work with him in an attempt to come up with a proposal the administration could support.
Roth has tried to answer criticism -- OPM's included -- that thgovernment's best and brightest would be enticed off the payroll. He says the bill would give the president the power to prohibit early outs in up to 25 percent of critical jobs in any given agency.
Departments could hold over for up to six months employeeelecting to retire early to ensure continuous performance of a project or responsibility.
Roth points out that the idea has been used successfully in thprivate sector by, among others, IBM, AT&T and General Motors. The states of Utah, Alaska, West Virginia and Rhode Island have tried it in the face of budget crunches.
"I strongly encourage this early retirement plan because it igovernmentwide and it is an active rather than reactive plan," he said. "This bill provides an alternative to reductions-in-force or periodic layoffs."
Help for disabled vets:
The House of Representatives is expected to vote later this week for a bill that would provide a 5.4 percent increase in benefits for disabled veterans and their eligible dependents.
The measure would be retroactive to Jan. 1. Congress failed latlast session to pass such a bill, when advocates of enlarging benefits for victims of the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange, tried to tie the COLA to their cause.
Among those commenting during debate this week was RepSilvio O. Conte, R-Mass., who said the bill would "keep faith with veterans who rely on us to provide them with modest assistance they require to live in dignity." Veterans who saw the death of the COLA bill last year will now be assured they weren't "forgotten amid legislative chaos."
Pay 'em more, Morella says:
All eyes are on the Persian Gulf, but some lawmakers, such as Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-8th, are trying to cover their legislative bases at home as well.
Already in the first session of the 102nd Congress, Morella haintroduced a measure that would give Baltimore-Washington federal employees 8 percent raises President Bush chose to grant federal workers in high-cost San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
There are far more federal employees in the capital region than iany of those three cities. Opponents of broadening the 8 percent boost note also that the higher cost of living is much more easily documented in the cities Bush chose.
No doubt to please the more than 60,000 federal employeeliving in her Montgomery County district, Morella also introduced legislation that would extend health insurance to certain federal employees' spouses who would otherwise not get benefits, to strip the controversial ban on honoraria unrelated to their work for most federal employees and to change the way retirement fund contributions are made.
The only Maryland House member who put in a Persian Gulf-related bill early in the session has been Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd. She proposed that any reconstruction of Kuwait be carried out in large part by American contractors because of the large role the U.S. is playing in the gulf conflict.