Federal government workers earn 16 percent more than their counterparts in the private sector, according to a report released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday that is sure to play into the heated debate over federal compensation.
The study compared federal and private workers at different levels of educational attainment and also considered salaries and benefits. On average, the federal government paid 2 percent more in civilian salaries than the private sector and 48 percent more in benefits.
CBO’s analysis comes days before the Republican-led House of Representatives is set to vote on a measure that would extend a two-year pay freeze for federal workers that was first imposed by the Obama administration. By comparison, the administration has proposed a half-percent cost-of-living raise for federal workers to begin in 2013.
Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to hash out a long-term extension of the payroll tax break that will expire at year’s end. Federal worker compensation has been targeted by some Republicans as a way to pay for that legislation.
Maryland is home to 305,978 federal workers -- roughly one-tenth of the state’s workforce -- according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Several agencies are based in the state, including the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
According to the Census Bureau, federal workers in Maryland earn a median income of $78,648 compared with an overall median of $41,616, but those numbers do not take educational attainment into account. Federal workers tend to be better educated on average than the workforce at large.
Unions representing federal workers questioned the CBO analysis on Monday and pointed to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show a pay gap benefiting the private sector.
"CBO is clearly the expert on congressional budget scoring but pay comparisons are not its principal expertise," National Treasury Employees Union president Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement.
"The federal workforce is the most highly-educated and highly-specialized in our country, and a great many of the professionals…working for the federal government could earn much more in the private sector," she said.