Pay freeze is nothing new, area's federal workers say CLINTON'S ECONOMIC PROGRAM

February 19, 1993|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,Contributing Writer

For many federal employees working in Woodlawn, President Clinton's plan to save money by freezing salaries for a year and reducing future raises is nothing new.

The same thing happened several times under the Reagan administration.

"We're sort of made an example of," said Ken Priller, an auditor for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). "Sometimes that doesn't go over very well with federal employees."

But Mr. Priller, a 23-year federal worker, was optimistic about Mr. Clinton's overall plan to put the economy back on track.

"I feel we shouldn't be singled out for pay cuts or pay raise freezes," he said. "But if everyone has to make a sacrifice to improve the economy, I'm willing to do that."

The prevailing feeling among both newer and longtime employees who heard Mr. Clinton's address Wednesday night or read about it yesterday was one of optimism for the country.

Milling about Security Square Mall and the bowling alley across the street from the HCFA and Social Security Administration buildings during their lunch hour, several said they felt this pay freeze is different from others.

"Republican presidents thought they were going to reduce the deficit by reducing [our] pay," said Ray Pompanio, a computer programmer for HCFA. But Mr. Clinton "is talking about taxing everyone in proportion."

Although some said they would not be hard-pressed by the Clinton plan, others were worried.

Tony Cotto, a three-year facility manager for HCFA, was unable to watch the speech, but after hearing about a possible one-year salary freeze, he said, "I don't like that at all."

"Financially, it's real bad," said Mr. Cotto, a Randallstown resident with a wife and 9-month-old daughter. "It means I might have to go get another, part-time job to make ends meet."

He said he hopes that Mr. Clinton will look closely at how his plan will affect the average lower-level worker before making any decisions.

Barbara Bryant, a printing specialist for Social Security, is unsure how the loss of a pay increase will affect her and her self-employed husband, but she noted, "The taxes kill us as it is."

"It's always the federal people taking a punch," she said.

Glo Wall, a 25-year Social Security employee, said she would be less affected than Ms. Bryant because she is single. In fact, she said, she is happy to be employed as she watches people in the private sector lose their jobs each day.

"It has to start somewhere," said James Deshields, a computer ** programmer for HCFA.

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