The Senate rejected a measure Tuesday that would extend a pay freeze for federal employees for another year.
By a vote of 47 to 51, the Senate rejected an amendment to a highway funding bill introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) that would have extended the freeze through Jan. 2014 to fund energy projects, an adoption tax credit and tax deductions for college expenses and for state and local property taxes.
The vote came during debate on a bill to provide federal highway funding. The White House has said it will oppose any effort to extend the pay freeze for another year to pay for other federal programs or to pay down the federal deficit.
A coalition of groups representing federal employees angrily denounced the bill Monday as the latest attempt to curtail federal pay to offset the costs of tax breaks and policies completely unrelated to the public sector workforce.
“The pay freeze extension in the Roberts amendment will be used to offset changes to energy policy and a long list of tax breaks that have nothing to do with federal employees,” the Federal-Postal Coalition wrote in a letter to senators sent Monday. “It is unacceptable to continually single out the federal workforce to fund programs or tax expenditures that should be broadly borne.”
The House voted in February to approve a one-year extension of the freeze as part of a separate bill. The White House, however, has recommended a 0.5 percent pay increase for civilian federal employees that would start next January.
The last general raise, of 2 percent, was paid in January 2010. A law passed late that year froze federal pay for two years, meaning there were no increases in January 2011 or 2012. Congress is considering paying no raise through 2013, meaning the earliest employees would receive a raise, if an extension is passed, would be January 2014.
In many respects, however, the current freeze may more accurately be described as a pay-rate freeze or a salary schedule freeze, because thousands of federal employees have earned “within-grade” or “step increases” over the past two years and workers promoted into new positions also receive pay bumps.
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The Roberts amendment is just the latest in a long list of GOP-backed bills that would shrink federal paychecks to either reduce the deficit or pay for various projects.
Last month, the National Treasury Employees Union released a list of more than 20 “legislative proposals harmful to the federal workforce,” including several measures that would extend the pay freeze through 2015; measures imposing a two-week unpaid furlough for federal workers; a bill to cut the workforce and impose a hiring freeze through 2014; proposals to allow the hiring of one employee for every three who leave federal service; and bills that would force federal workers to sharply increase their pension contributions.
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