By Stephen Barr
Eight members of the Washington area House delegation plan to send President Bush a letter today urging him to "embrace the principle of pay parity" and provide equal pay raises for civil service and military personnel in his fiscal 2007 budget plan.
A draft of the letter, organized by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip, emphasizes that Congress has backed equal adjustments in pay for the civil service and military nearly every year for the past two decades.
Bush has objected to parity raises since taking office but has been overridden by Congress each year. This year, for example, federal employees and military personnel are receiving raises that average 3.1 percent. Bush had called for a 2.3 percent raise for the civil service.
Hoyer organized a similar request to the president last year, kicking off the first of many skirmishes over how much to adjust federal employee pay. The battle could be tough this year, in part because the White House and Congress will be under pressure to rein in spending to pay for troops in Iraq and for rebuilding in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities devastated last year by Hurricane Katrina.
Federal pay increases have averaged more than 3 percent annually for the last eight years, but employees may have to adjust their expectations for next year.
The Labor Department's Employment Cost Index, which measures wage growth, calls for an across-the-board increase of 1.7 percent in 2007. Such a raise probably would not keep employees even with inflation and is likely to be increased by the White House or Congress to show support for the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The letter from the House members points out that the military and civil service employees are engaged in the war on terrorism, here and abroad. "We believe anything less than an equal pay adjustment in 2007 sends the regrettable message that the services civilians provide to America every day are not highly valued," the letter said.
The letter is being signed by Hoyer and Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), 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.