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Federal Eye
Posted at 02:35 PM ET, 09/11/2012

House set to extend federal pay rate freeze

A temporary spending measure before the House would lift the threat of a partial government shutdown due to a budgetary stalemate, while keeping federal employee salary rates frozen at least until April.

The “continuing resolution” would fund government programs, generally at about current levels, from the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1 through March 27. It is to be considered on Wednesday in the House Rules Committee, and a full House vote is planned by week’s end, with the Senate most likely taking up the issue next week.

Continuing the federal employee salary rate freeze — which also would apply to members of Congress — was expected, given that President Obama recently recommended paying no raise for the duration of the stopgap measure.

The administration favors granting a 0.5 percent across-the-board raise once the measure expires. Federal employee unions have called for making such an increase retroactive to the start of 2013, while the House has voted several times against any raise in 2013. That issue would be decided later.

Federal salary rates have not been increased since January 2010, although employees have remained eligible for raises for performance, on promotion, or on successfully completing waiting periods.

“It is absolutely unfair to federal employees to delay the pay raise until the expiration of the CR,” American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox said in a statement. “Federal employees bear no responsibility for the inability of the House and Senate to reconcile their appropriations bills prior to the expiration of the fiscal year. Moreover, this delay would have virtually no fiscal budgetary savings, but it will extend the hardship, particularly of lower-graded employees, that they have already borne for two years.”

Although the measure mostly would continue current funding, it provides flexibility for Customs and Border Protection to maintain current staffing levels, and it adds money for processing veterans disability claims, nuclear weapons modernization, weather satellite launches and certain other priorities.

“While it appears that the CR will be passed and a government shutdown threat will be averted, the funding levels set for federal agencies are inadequate in the long term, particularly for the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen deep budget cuts, and should be addressed during the lame duck session of Congress,” Colleen M. Kelley, National Treasury Employees Union president said in a statement.

The bill also adds funds to develop a central database to hold the publicly available financial disclosure forms filed by some 28,000 federal officials, many of them senior career employees. That was one of the requirements in the Stock Act enacted earlier this year, along with an interim step of requiring agencies to post those disclosures online.

The online disclosure requirement was delayed by a month and now is to take effect at the end of this month, unless delayed again or blocked by a court. A pending lawsuit alleges that widespread disclosure would expose affected employees to identity theft and other crimes; currently, while those forms are publicly available they generally must be requested individually. A central database, which is to be publicly searchable, is not expected to be operative for at least a year.

The continuing resolution is needed because none of the regular appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year have been enacted. Without continued funding, many government operations would have to shut down until new spending authority was enacted, a threat that arose several times last year in budgetary showdowns.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) called the measure “a good-faith effort to provide limited, yet fair and adequate funding for government programs and services until March 27, or until final appropriations legislation can be approved . . . However, while important, this bill essentially punts on the core duty of Congress to complete its annual appropriations and budget work.”

By  |  02:35 PM ET, 09/11/2012

 
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