Organizations representing feds and retirees deserve a big pat on the back from members and nonmembers alike for the tough, effective lobbying effort they put in on the federal budget approved by Congress.
The unions and professional groups managed to beat back a proposal to cut federal pay, raise employe pension contributions and freeze cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.
Although the budget does take a bite out of federal pay and benefit programs, most observers agree it could have been a lot worse.
This is the upshot:
*There will be no 5 percent pay cut next year. Instead, Congress agreed to a one-year pay freeze. Longevity raises amounting to 3 percent of salary will be allowed next year.
*White-collar pay raises will resume in January 1987 with an anticipated 3.8 percent increase; there will be an additional raise of about 4.7 percent in January 1988.
*Military personnel will get a 3 percent raise next year, when increases guaranteed by contract to rank-and-file postal workers will also go in effect.
*Both the Senate and House ignored the White House plan to raise the earliest federal retirement age from 55 to 65, and also rejected proposals to increase employe contributions to the retirement fund from 7 percent of salary to 9 percent.
*Federal and military retirees will get a cost-of-living adjustment next January, despite attempts to freeze the COLAs. The amount will be determined later this year. (It will be the same as the inflation-catch up that will go to Social Security recipients.
*The new budget does not include a Senate proposal that would have lowered benefits for survivors of federal retirees to conform with Social Security practice.
*Proposed cuts in the federal health insurance program will be accomplished not by benefit reductions, but by a bookkeeping change that transfers funds from one account to another.
*A 4 percent federal job cut over the next three years will be made by attrition, rather than through major layoffs, as had been recommended earlier.
*Congress did make permanent a "temporary" bookkeeping change imposed earlier that bases federal salaries on a work year of 2,087 hours, rather than the old 2,080-hour year. That action has the effect of reducing individual federal salaries slightly, but amounts to a considerable cost-saving to the government.
The way you view the new budget depends on whether you see a glass of water as half full or half empty. But, considering the way things looked earlier this year -- with the administration proposing major cuts in federal personnel programs -- the budget compromise should please most people.