Congress, the bureaucracy's board of directors, has a number of important personnel matters to attend to now that legislators have returned to work. The first item on the personnel agenda is pay:
The Senate and House are working on bills that would give military personnel substantial raises next month. The Senate bill would raise pay 7 to 22 percent. The House measure would give all military people -- officers and enlisted -- a flat 14.3 percent increase.
Federal white-collar workers, the government's 1.3 million clerks, accountants, computer programmers, scientists, secretaries and others will get a 4.8 percent raise beginning in October unless Congress vetoes that raise (proposed by President Reagan) and orders the government to give civil servants a catch-up-with-industry increase averaging about 15 percent. That isn't going to happen. If Congress remains silent on the pay issue -- which it will -- the president's alternate plan, of a 4.8 percent raise, goes into effect automatically.
Other things the "board" should be aware of:
Executive Pay: Federal executives making $50,112.50 or more will not get any increase this October unless Congress lifts the so-called pay cap. The $50,112.50 limitation is a part of the pending legislation providing funding for the Senate and House. All it would take, to lift the pay cap, would be for the Senate and House to strike (remove) the pay cap language. If they do that, government executives (but not members of Congress) could get raises of about 16 percent this October to make up for past raises they were denied. But if Congress keeps the pay lid on, there will be no executive raise this year. Watch the Senate and House appropriations bills to see what happens.
Health Insurance: Health insurance premiums for federal workers (and members of Congress) will take a healthy jump next year. To minimize the premium rise, the Office of Personnel Management has told carriers in the FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits) program to cut back some benefits. That means many workers will pay higher premiums next year but get less in the way of coverage. Most members of Congress are covered by the FEHB, so they have a special interest in benefits and premiums.
Retirees: Congressional offices are already swamped with angry letters and telegrams from U.S. retirees who did not get their regular September COL (cost of living) raise. Congress changed the twice-yearly (September and March) COL system just before it went on vacation. Because of the media attention here, most of the 100,000 federal and military retirees here knew that the COL raise would be deferred until next March. But many retirees outside of Washington are just learning about the switch to a single COL raise system.
Furloughs: Office of Management and Budget officials (from David Stockman on down) say they have no plans to recommend furloughing federal workers this year or next to cut costs. Last week this column reported that the OMB had directed the Office of Personnel Management to study the feasibility of furloughs to avoid giving severance and unemployment pay to workers in coming cutbacks. But OMB says flatly it did not tell the OPM to make the study, that OPM did it on its own!
Foreign Service Pay Tables: I goofed in Sunday's column on the new (October) pay scales for Foreign Service personnel. The numbers are correct. But there is only one pay scale, not two as reported. The FS has switched to a single pay scale-- with 9 grades and 14 longevity pay steps -- for its officers and staff people. The top Foreign Service salary (unless the pay cap is lifted) will remain at $50,112.50 although the pay tables show a maximum salary of $60,689. The beginning FS pay scale is step one of class 9, which is $12,854.