Pay rates for top career executives jumped $2,600 this week, thanks to the Senate-House squabble over "economy" in government, and abortions. Another raise in annual pay, this one of $3,500, is due top federal officials beginning Monday.
The situation is so fouled up few federal officials are aware they are earning more this week than they were in September, or that the rates they now enjoy are actually a year old. Members of Congress are also benefiting from a 12.9 percent raise pending a compromise from Capitol Hill peace negotiators.
This is complicated, so hang on.
Last year Congress excused itself from a 5.5 percent October raise for the rest of government. It allowed rates of top federal executives to move up to $50,100, but held their pay at $47,500 through that fiscal year. That fiscal year ended Monday morning.
Congress planned to do something about the 1978 raises. But it didn't, and suddenly found a 7 percent raise (effective this month) staring it in the face. After much shuffling, the House whacked that raise -- for members of Congress and top federal bureaucrats -- to 5.5 percent. The idea was it was an overdue raise, and one smaller than the 7 percent other federal employes were due.
However the Senate and House got into a name-calling battle over abortion funding language. The result was that the Senate shot down the House's compromise 5.5 percent pay plan, and the House left town for a 10-day Columbus Day vacation. But the wheels of government, and the law, have kept ticking.
Effective Oct. 1, the "new" 1978 federal pay rates for top federal executives automatically thawed. Agencies (as reported here yesterday) were advised to put them into effect this week. For one week only.
The temporary raise means -- from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6 -- that federal officials who left the office last Friday earning $47,500 reported to the same jobs Monday earning the newly authorized (although 1978) rates of $50,100. Government executives down the line who had been frozen at $47,500 moved up to the authorized, but never paid, 1978 rates. That is this week.
Next week, when many federal officials begin their first pay period of this new fiscal year, their rate will jump to $53,600. That for a job which paid $47,500 last week, and $50,100 this week. Congressional pay is also moving up a total of 12.9 percent, since the Senate failed to accept the lower figure (of 5.5 percent) for pay raises approved by the House.
Now unless Congress is crazy (no editorializing here) it has three options:
It can accept the House language and hold top federal officials and members of Congress to a 5.5 percent raise. In that case, it would probably set the federal ceiling at the 1978-authorized level of $50,100 for top career pay.
Take the safest way out and kill any raises this year for itself, and for key federal officials. That would put members of Congress back at the $57,500 level; and take away this week's temporary $2,600 annual raise for government supergraders, putting them back in the $47,500 deep freeze.
Take the bold (if not the smart) road and allow members of Congress to keep the 12.9 percent rates already in effect. All Congress would have to do to make this a reality is do what it has done best lately, nothing.
People who have been watching the Senate-House pay ulcer grow predict the first option will win out. That would allow top elected, appointed and career officials to move up to last year's authorized pay levels. That would put senior bureaucrats at the pay levels outlined here yesterday, ranging from $50,100 for Grade 17 and 18 personnel down to $48,336 for Grade 15 personnel in the ninth pay step.