Area House Members Implore Bush to Support Pay Parity

For Immediate Release:

January 25, 2005

Contact:Stephen Barr

The Washington Post

Ten members of the Washington area delegation plan to send President Bush a letter today urging him to provide equal pay raises for civil service and military personnel in his fiscal 2006 budget proposal that goes to Congress in two weeks.

A draft of the letter, organized by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip, calls on Bush to "embrace the principle of pay parity" when making his recommendation for federal employees' 2006 pay raise.

Bush has objected to parity raises since taking office but has been overridden by Congress each year. The most recent instance came last year, when Congress approved an average 3.5 percent pay raise for the civil service and the military in 2005 despite the White House contention that a 1.5 percent raise for the civil service would be adequate.

The letter is being signed by Hoyer and Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), ElijahE. Cummings (D-Md.), Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a Hoyer spokeswoman said.

Hoyer, Moran and Wolf serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which typically makes the annual recommendation on pay raises. Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee and served as chief sponsor last year for a resolution, approved on a 299 to 126 vote, reiterating the House's support for pay parity.

"As we fight the war on terrorism at home and abroad, both the armed services and the federal civilian workforce are integral to fulfilling the role of government for the American people," the draft version of the letter says.

"We believe anything less than an equal pay adjustment in 2006 sends the regrettable message that the services civilians provide to America every day are not highly valued," the letter says.

The House members also point out that many experienced civil service employees are nearing retirement and that a parity raise will help ensure that the government remains competitive in recruiting and retaining employees.

In the letter, the members write that they are open to administration initiatives that would more effectively allocate payroll dollars but, in fiscal 2006, plan to support a single pay adjustment for the civil service and the military.

The Bush administration supports efforts that would link federal pay raises more closely with the job performance of employees. Two departments -- Defense and Homeland Security -- have launched plans to shift nearly 850,000 civil service employees into pay-for-performance systems.

The Office of Management and Budget opposed this year's raise on grounds that it exceeded inflation and average raises in the private sector. Because Congress does not always approve funding for pay raises, OMB said, agencies are forced to absorb payroll expenses by cutting back on programs and hiring.

In most years, Congress uses formulas based on the Employment Cost Index, which measures changes in salaries, health insurance and employee benefits, as a starting point for the annual debate.

If the pay formulas were followed for next year, civil service employees would be in line for a 2.1 percent across-the-board raise and members of the armed forces would receive a 3.1 percent raise.