Legislation still is on track to implement a 3.5 percent average pay raise for federal civilian workers in 2005, despite a White House proposal to hold the increase to 2.5 percent.
On Monday, President Bush sent an alternative pay plan to congressional leaders, proposing an across-the-board 2.5 percent pay increase with no locality pay adjustment. In his message to lawmakers, President Bush said the decision was based on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the costs of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, the president was compelled to propose an alternative pay plan by the end of November. The plan, however, almost certainly will be overridden by the fiscal 2005 omnibus spending bill, which includes a 3.5 percent average pay raise for all civilian federal workers.
On Friday, an official from the Office of Management and Budget said the White House issued the 2.5 percent raise because the omnibus bill has been delayed, and administration officials did not want FEPCA to take effect in January. If the spending bill is not approved by the start of 2005, the pay comparability act would grant federal workers a 2.5 percent base pay increase and locality pay raises averaging 10.6 percent.
"The alternative locality pay plan submitted to Congress prevents locality pay increases averaging 10.6 percent from taking place beginning in January," said the official, who asked not to be identified. "Enactment of the omnibus appropriations bill will render the alternative locality pay plan moot. The plan was submitted just in case the omnibus is delayed past January 1, 2005. The alternative locality pay plan will almost certainly have no effect."
The 3.5 percent average civilian pay raise in the spending bill was included after a strong push from a group of Washington, D.C.-area lawmakers, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Frank Wolf, R-Va.
Lawmakers already have rejected the initial fiscal 2005 budget proposal from the Bush administration - which would have awarded a 1.5 percent raise to civilian workers. Congressional officials said they are confident that the spending bill will be passed and that the 3.5 percent raise will take effect.
"Federal employees will get the full pay increase supported by a large majority in the House of Representatives, mark my words," said Drew Crockett, a Davis spokesman.
Democrats echoed that sentiment, and took issue with Bush's invocation of military conflicts to justify cutting the pay raise. According to Moran, keeping the pay of federal workers competitive has never been more important.
"During this time of increased homeland security and defense abroad, we need all the tools we can get to recruit and retain valuable personnel," Moran said. "I believe the 3.5 percent increase for federal employees is well deserved."
The omnibus spending bill is being delayed because House members are attempting to remove language that would have increased lawmakers' access to individual tax returns.