Student loans eyed by budgeteers

Currently, most federal civilian workers contribute 0.8 percent of their wages to the fund that pays pension benefits, and the government contributes 11.2 percent of payroll.

The disparity dates to the last major change in federal employee pensions, passed a quarter century ago, that required workers to pay Social Security taxes for the first time.

Requiring workers and the government to contribute 6 percent apiece would save about $121.7 billion if implemented immediately, according to the House Budget Committee.

The House budget suggests Republicans want to gradually phase the pension out in favor of a system that lets employees decide how to invest their retirement savings, as is happening in private industry.

That would replace a system “that is creating future unfunded liabilities for taxpayers,” it adds, although the Congressional Research Service says the pension fund for most current employees is on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Phasing in the change over several years, as the president’s deficit commission suggested, would end up saving about $70 billion, and the savings would be even less if it applied only to future retirees.

In contrast to the talks led by Biden, the so-called Gang of Six negotiations that ran aground in the Senate had scoured programs in every corner of the budget and envisioned possible tax increases as well.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., quit the effort on May 16, saying that he wanted deeper cuts to Medicare and that the overall package was not balanced.

At the same time, Coburn reaffirmed support for higher government revenue, saying that was “the only way we get out of this problem” of soaring deficits.

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