WASHINGTON (AP) -- Are federal employees overpaid?
Republican leaders in Congress think so, and they are calling for an overhaul of the entire federal pay system to help slash government spending.
Democrats and other defenders of the government work force say federal workers are actually underpaid compared with their private counterparts.
A closer look at the data shows that both sides have a point but that supporters of federal workers are a bit closer to reality. The debate has heated up since the GOP budget blueprint unveiled this week calls for federal pay "to be reformed to be in line with the private sector." It says average wages "far eclipse" those in the private industry.
At a congressional hearing last month, Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., said the average federal worker earns $101,628 in total compensation -- including wages and benefits-- compared with $60,000 for the average private employee. He was citing data from the federal Office of Personnel Management.
"Our taxpayers can no longer be asked to foot the bill for these federal employees while watching their own salaries remain flat and their benefits erode," said Ross, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on the federal work force.
But federal employee advocates claim a straight-up comparison of average total compensation is misleading. A disproportionate number of federal employees are professionals, such as managers, lawyers, engineers and scientists. Over the years, the federal government has steadily outsourced lower-paying jobs to the private sector so that blue-collar workers cooking meals or working in mailrooms now make up just 10 percent of federal employees.