Politics of Pay

For Immediate Release:

September 4, 2003

Contact:Tanya N. Ballard

GovExec.com

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and General Government approved legislation Wednesday that includes language supporting military-civilian pay parity and granting civil service employees a 4.1 percent pay raise in 2004. The House Appropriations Committee approved similar legislation in July.

“It continues to amaze me that so many political leaders fail to make the connection between competitive public and private sector pay and the government’s ability to attract and retain the high-quality employees agencies need and want,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said Wednesday. “I’m pleased and encouraged that the members of this key Senate subcommittee understand that.”

Last week the Bush administration announced it would hold firm to its 2004 pay raise proposal of 2 percent for white-collar workers, citing national security needs and federal budget constraints.

Salary increases for employees under the General Schedule are calculated using a formula set out in the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, but no president has ever fully implemented the law and Congress has generally had to step in and grant federal employees a larger pay raise. Under FEPCA, federal employees would receive a 2.7 percent across-the-board pay raise in 2004, still lower than the 4.1 percent pay raise promised in the two appropriations bills working their way through Congress.

In the days following the announcement, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle threw down the gauntlet, pledging to fight tooth and nail for the larger pay raise.

“His [the president’s] decision to invoke a national emergency to provide an inadequate pay raise for the very men and women who are confronting that emergency on a daily basis smacks of indifference, or at least a failure to understand the role federal employees play in keeping America safe,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “But I urge the president to remember that the workers he is shortchanging are the scientists at the CDC who are working to protect Americans against a biological terrorist attack, the men and women of the CIA who are risking their lives around the world in the fight against terrorism, and the Customs officers who guard our borders. These are not faceless clerks pushing paper in the bowels of government bureaucracy.”

Hoyer joined with Reps. James Moran, D-Va., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., to introduce the House version of the pay parity measure.

“Federal civilian employees work side by side with military personnel fighting the war on terrorism,” Moran said. “As a matter of fairness, they should receive the same compensation and not be used to score ideological points.”

A spokesman for House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said the lawmaker was committed to military-civilian pay parity and would fight for the larger raise.

The House bill is headed to the floor next and the Senate bill will go to the full committee.