No doubt, many federal employees will remember Feb. 20 as a dark day. The Defense Department formally unveiled plans to furlough most of its almost 800,000 civilian workers if sequestration comes to pass. More agencies could soon follow suit.
But such sacrifices are old hat to state and local government employees who have been enduring stiff cutbacks since the economy tanked in 2008. In recent years, for example, dozens of states have furloughed employees, resorted to outright layoffs and/or required workers to pitch in more for benefits, according to a rundown by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
One of the largest, California, has been furloughing employees for a couple of days a month ever since 2010. Under a law passed last year (now being challenged in court), Arizona state workers are responsible for paying 53 percent of contributions to their pension plan, according to the conference. By contrast, Federal Employees Retirement System participants (with the exception of folks hired since the beginning of the year) pay less than 7 percent, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.
The underlying reason for the tougher stance is that state governments generally have to balance their budgets and can’t borrow money for operating expenses when they run short. As a result, state employees have faced “significant changes” in the wake of the “Great Recession,” Todd Haggerty, an NCSL policy analyst, told FedLine.
So if misery really does love company, well, feds have plenty.