The state legislature's top fiscal analyst predicted an "adverse" effect on Maryland's revenue growth. Local economists said a freeze would hurt the state's recovery — and could foreshadow federal job cuts.
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"This is a pretty big deal for the Maryland economy," said Richard Clinch, director of economic research at the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute. "I think this is a very good political move for Obama but one with bad economic consequences for the region."
If approved, the freeze would extend through the end of 2012 and affect all federal civilian workers, including those employed by the Defense Department, but not military personnel. A total of 261,000 Maryland residents hold civilian federal jobs, according to Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin's office.
The news drew shrugs from some of the state's federal employees.
"I'll just tighten a little more," said Lindsey Branch, who has worked at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn for 15 years. She spoke of dropping cable television and her landline telephone. "There are things I can cut back on and it's not going to impact my lifestyle too much."
But John Gage of Baltimore, who heads the nation's largest federal employee union, called the freeze "a joke." He said he was particularly disappointed that Obama had resorted to what he called a well-worn tactic of treating federal workers as "sacrificial lambs."
"I expected more from this president than just superficial stunts, and it looks like he's really just caving in in the face of some political pressure" from Republicans, said Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "You're not going to make up for two wars and the financial sector's collapse by cutting federal pay."
In brief remarks at the White House, Obama said sacrifices will be needed to reduce the federal budget deficit "and I'm asking civil servants to do what they've always done — play their part."