If Congress decides to skip a 1983 pay raise for 1.4 million white-collar federal workers, chances are they will get one anyway, but in 1984. Anxious to save money in the current fiscal year, Congress may defer the next increase until April and then come along with what could be an even more generous increase in October, just one month before the election.
Senate and House conferees will probably begin work next week on a budget resolution that contains a number of items of interest to active-duty civil servants and retirees. This is where things stand:
The Senate has voted to defer the pay increase for civilian federal employes--there are more than 300,000 in this area--from October of this year until next April. If the Senate version (backed by the White House) is adopted, U.S. employes would get a 4 percent raise next April and the regular October increase which, in presidential election years, has tended to be more generous than raises in nonelection years.
The House is on record as favoring a 4 percent U.S. worker pay raise this October. But since it voted for that raise, the House Armed Services Committee okayed a delay in the next military increase until April 1984. It is unlikely that Congress would vote to give civilian federal workers a pay raise until military personnel got an increase too. So the April pay raise is a distinct possibility.
The timing of the next raise will be decided by Senate-House conference. Once those budget conferees are appointed, they will have nine working days to come up with a compromise budget resolution. It could be as late as August before the budget issue is finally cleared by Congress. But employes should have a good idea fairly soon whether they will be getting a raise in October or April.
Retired government and military personnel also have a stake in the budget compromise. It is when they will get their next cost of living adjustment (COLA). Both the Senate and House have voted to delay the next COLA which, under current law, is due in June 1984.
The House has voted to delay the next COLA for federal-military retirees (there are more than 100,000 of them in the Washington area), until December 1984.
The Senate's budget plan would delay the next retiree COLA until January 1985. That is one month later than the COLA date approved by the House. But the point is that both sides have agreed to a deferral. The only issue appears whether it will be delayed until December 1984 or January 1985.
The Senate has also approved language that would deny full COLAs to retirees until they became age 62. It would limit the under-62 retirees to one half of the COLA percentage increase that older retirees got in the future.
Although the House budget plan does not address the subject of reduced COLAs for "younger" retirees insiders think the Senate plan will be approved by conferees.
The final budget package may not be approved until August. But government workers and retirees should have an idea--within the next couple of weeks--as to when their next pay and annuity increases will be coming.