Two very important pay-pension votes on Capitol Hill this week will hit everybody who ever served Uncle Sam, from the $50,000 a year executive running a General Motors-sized U.S. project to the elderly soldier-retiree struggling to pay rent and buy food on $150 a month.
The Senate will decide whether 1) to adopt a temporary balanced-budget compromise that would skip -- this year only -- the September cost-of-living payment due federal military retirees or, 2) make the one-a-year COL adjustment a permanent thing.
Both the Senate Budget Committee and the White House want to end the system that gives U.S. retirees COL raises every six months. They want to limit the 3 million annuitants to a single annual adjustment each March. Losing one of the payments would cost the typical U.S. retiree -- and there are 100,000 here -- $1 a day in the fight to keep pace with the ever-rising cost of living.
In a compromise backed by retiree groups and federal and postal unions, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee voted out a bill that would give the Carter administration and Budget Committee what they want -- but only for this year. The compromise would eliminate the upcoming September COL adjustment for 1980. In March 1981, retirees would get a full COL catchup raise -- estimated at about 12 percent -- plus COL adjustments each six months thereafter.
The Budget Committee will fight to make the COL cutback permanent. The vote on it is due this week, perhaps by Wednesday.
Of special interest to career federal executives is the Senate-House conference on the $16 billion supplemental appropriations bill. There are 250 major and minor differences in the complex version approved by the Senate and the House.
The House would slap a $52,750 ceiling on the salary and bonus that a member of the Senior Executive Service could get. Although they were promised a shot at bonuses worth up to 20 percent of salary, the House limit would permit only token bonuses for the executives, most of whom already earn $50,000 a year.
The Senate version of the supplemental appropriations bill does not place any limit on the bonuses outstanding executives could earn.
A bipartisan band of Senate and House members is working hard to get the conferees to strike what they consider to be the "crippling" House pay-bonus limit. They argue that the executives were promised the potential bonuses as part of their "contract" when they joined the high-risk SES. President Carter personally is making calls to save the bonus sytem. A vote on that should come by Wednesday or Thursday.