U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, along with Sen. Tom Coburn, has introduced the Public-Private Employee Retirement Act of 2011 to address long-term liabilities facing the federal government. The legislation would end the defined benefit pension portion of the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) for new federal government hires — including members of Congress — starting in 2013. It would not affect the Thrift Savings Plan, which will continue to be matched up to 5 percent for new and existing workers.

Federal workers currently receive both a defined benefit pension and a Thrift Savings Plan (equivalent to a 401(k)) with up to a 5 percent match, paid for by the taxpayers. The average private sector employee gets a 401(k) with a 3 percent employer match and no pension. Federal workers also continue to enjoy federal health care benefits (FEHBP) after they retire.

The FERS system is currently underfunded by almost $1 billion dollars. The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which previously served as the federal pension system, is underfunded by $673 billion. In 2012, the federal government will contribute $22.2 billion to FERS. By 2065, those required contributions will rise to $239.5 billion, with the government paying out $415.3 billion in benefits. 

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