Some top U.S. executives would get annual raises of up to $3,325 beginning next month if Congress votes itself a pending 7 percent pay raise. Nearly 9,000 of the 11,000 federal career and political appointees whose $47,500 salaries are linked to Congressional pay action, live here.
The House today is scheduled to vote on a compromise salary package for itself. It would boost members $57,500 salary by 7 percent instead of the embarrassing 12.9 percent due them by law. The absentee rate, because of political jitters, may be high today, but not high enough to cancel the all-important pay vote.
If Congress allows itself any sort of pay raise, it automatically would boost the present $47,500 career federal pay limit. Because of continued pay freezes for executives, thousands of government executives in Grades 16, 17 and 18 now make the same salary -- $47,500. Members of the new elite SES (Senior Executive Service), which took in most of the federal "supergrade" population, also are stuck at $47,500, although their pay scales on paper are much higher.
When Congress okayed the SES as part of civil service reform it authorized the president to set higher rates for SES members, but they are subject to the $47,500 ceiling even though their paper raises range $47,889 to $56,500. The 7 percent October raise due rank-and-file civil services will raise a number of executives now paid $44,756 to the $47,500 limit. If Congress allows the limit to go up, those few executives would get an additional $389.
Big gainers in the pay raise, however, would be executives in the upper levels of the six-grade SES. Despite their "paper" rates, nearly all now get the same $47,500 maximum.
If the 7 percent raise is authorized for them -- and for Congress -- top-level members of the SES could go up to $50,825. That would still leave them short of their "paper" maximum rate of $56,500, but it would bring them up to $50,825, a raise of $3,325.
The question, of course, is whether Congress will have the political nerve to raise its own salaries. Carter administration officials have urged House leaders to accept a "modified" 7 percent, the same as regular civil servants. Congress last year deferred a 5.5 percent raise due it. Now it must take positive action or it automatically will get the 5.5 percent, plus the 7 percent due regular civil servants and the military this October.
The double-dose raises spell two things for Congress. In mathematical terms, with compounding, the work out to about 12.9 percent for each member. In political terms, a raise of that size is viewed as a legislative cup of hemlock -- one that would kill the careers of many who hope to be reelected in 1980.
Some insiders claim that the House leadership, as of yesterday, was within five votes of having the majority needed to approve a 7 percent congressional raise. There will be moves on the floor to cut the amount back, and some economy-minded members will ask Congress to gain pass up any pay raise.
Rep. Michael B. Barnes (D.-Md.) and other area members of Congress -- who represent most of the governments' supergraders -- have urged Congress to allow executive pay to rise even if Congress denies itself a boost. Odds are Congress will not boost nonelected bureaucrats unless its own rates go up.