No reason, yet, for the vast bulk of the bureaucracy to panic about getting an IOU next payday instead of a check. But keep an eye on the calendar and stay tuned. The time to panic may be just around the corner.
Most functions of the government are technically broke today! This came about because Congress failed to act on most major appropriation bills to authorize funds and release of funds for the 1980 fiscal year. It started Monday.
Ironically the new 7 percent raise also came into being Monday even as most agencies ran out of payroll funds for the new fiscal year. Paychecks will keep coming, but the Senate and House must -- for a change -- do something positive shortly or workers will start getting half checks, for work performed after Oct. 1.
Reason for the confusion is the legislative spitting contest the Senate and House have been having over everything from abortion funding language to debates over which body -- the Senate or the House -- is more important, and loves America most.
Like two old grumps butting heads, the Senate and House fiddled and played parliamentary games until time ran out. In the process the cambatants allowed themselves a 12.9 percent pay raise (effective Oct. 1). But that may not last long, once the voters get wind of it.
The House tried to limit the pay raise to 5.5 percent but the Senate wouldn't go along with that language because the overall congressional funding bill had things it didn't like. The House was so broken up it has taken a 10-day holiday (up there they call it "district work period") in honor of Christopher Columbus. Meantime a 12.9 percent raise -- temporary though it may be -- has descended over the $57,500 salaries of the Congress.
When the House gets back from honoring Columbus, Senate-House conferees are expected to swallow their pride -- there has already been argument over which side of the Capitol building to meet on -- and clear up the paycheck freeze. Those corrections are expected to result in lowering the 12.9 percent congressional-executive raise to 5.5 percent.
Federal judges, thanks to a constitutional provision which says you can't cut the pay of a judge, will get to keep the 12.9 percent, even if Congress and government executives get less.
Blue collar federal employes, currently limited to 5.5 percent raises, will be allowed to get up to 7 percent. Language in the Treasury Department appropriation which the President signed Sunday, raises the pay ceiling for the 550,000 federal blue collar (wage board) workers.
There is still time to meet most federal payrolls (VISTA personnel have already been hit with pay cutbacks) if Congress gets rolling next week. It can either approve appropriations, or authorize agencies to keep spending at pre-Oct. 1 levels pending approval of money bills.
If Congress doesn't begin to act next week, or insists on playing unstatemanlike games with other people's paychecks, agencies will not have money to pay workers for services performed after Oct. 1. That will be the time to start panicking about paying the mortgage and buying groceries.