Thousands of senior bureaucrats, political appointees and judges due a minimum 11.3 percent raise this fall will almost certainly be excluded from any pay increase give rank-and-file government and military personnel.
Insiders expect government "supergraders" and others making $47,500 or more will be denied any pay raise, for the second year in a row. Most federal employes and the military are due to get a limited 5.5 percent raise this year in October. It will represent a partial catchup with industry.
Within the last couple of days the House tried to remedy the executive pay situation, and its own. It was trying to cut back the "unacceptable" 11.3 percent raise to a lesser amount. But the drive got bogged down in political emotions. It now appears there will not be any sort of executive-legislative-judicial raise until the fall of 1980.
As pointed out here a couple of months back, federal executives are technically due a substantial October raise. That includes the 5.5 percent they were denied in 1978 plus 5.5 percent this year. Compounded it works out to around 11.3 percent.
But Congress is leery of any big pay raise for itself or top bureaucrats in a year dominated by inflation and recession. So it took action to reduce this fall's increase, first to 7 percent, then to 5.5 percent. Both failed. So although the 11.3 percent raise is still due, odds are Congress will now kill off any kind of executive pay boost for 1979.
Pay-watchers now believe Congress will drop any move to reduce the executive-legislative-judicial raises for 1979. The idea is that nothing is politically safer than nothing when it comes to government raises. Next move will be for the House Appropriations Committee to stick a rider on a money bill to continue the executive level pay freeze for another year. It means nobody earning $47,500 or more would get anything.
The impact of an extended executive freeze - assuming this scenerio is correct - is two-fold: First, it will probably push more executives into retirement. With no raises in sight, executives will opt out to get the two cost of living boosts retirees get each year. And with no raises coming there is no way for senior-paid employes to boost their pensions by increasing their average 3-year salary.
Secondly, the problem of "compression" will get worse in government. Compression is when you are the boss and subordinates several steps or grades below you make the same salary.
Thousands of Grade 15 workers - who will get raises this October along with other employes - will move up to the $47,500 pay ceiling. The result will be that all Grade 18, Grade 17 and most Grade 16 workers will be making the same $47,500. Many GS 15 people will also move up to the pay level.
It is hard for the average American to sympathize with anyone "frozen" at $47,500. But a lot of these executives, judges and appointees handle jobs, budgets and programs that dwarf anything in industry - in dollars and importance - and it is too bad they have to sit out pay raises for political reasons.