Government workers who feel unloved by politicians must have been indoors Thursday during the Hurricane Floyd scare when the Good Ship Lollipop was launched on Capitol Hill.
This congressional love boat--technically known as the Treasury-Postal Service-General Government Appropriations bill--is so chock full of goodies for civil servants that it is riding low in the water.
Fortunately for feds, the legislative dreamboat only has to travel one mile, from the Capitol to the White House. It will arrive sometime next week. Then the president has 10 days to sign it into law. He's indicated he will.
Benefits added late in the loading process by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)--range from pay raises to extended retirement options and departure bonuses. The bill also means job security for thousands of short-service feds who might otherwise have been fired for economy reasons.
Hoyer has made a career out of pulling pro-federal worker rabbits out of the legislative hat via the Treasury-Postal Service bill. Stevens, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, persuadeed colleagues to go along with the proposal to give civilian feds the same January pay raise due military personnel. President Clinton had proposed 4.4 percent for both.
When signed into law, the bill will:
* Give most of the 1.2 million white-collar federal workers a pay raise of about 4.8 percent. The exact amount will vary slightly from city to city when locality pay adjustments are made. The raise will take effect in January.
The pay raises will increase the face value of employee life insurance policies. It will mean most workers can contribute more to their tax-deferred thrift savings plan. The raise will also boost the value of future pension benefits--which are linked to salary and length of service--and also increase the value of unused annual leave that workers cash in upon retirement.
* Extend the authority to offer workers buyouts (worth up to $25,000 before deductions) to three new agencies.
They are the General Services Administration (where buyouts can run through April 30, 2001); Treasury's Financial Management Service (with buyouts through Jan. 31, 2000); and Treasury's Office of Inspector General for Tax Administration (through Jan. 1, 2003).
Currently, 10 federal agencies--Defense, IRS, NASA, Agriculture, CIA, Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Architect of the Capitol, Government Printing Office and the Bonneville Power Administration--have buyout authority. Congress has not acted--yet--on a CIA request to continue buyouts (scheduled to end Sept. 30) through Sept. 30, 2000.
* Keep alive the early-retirement program that is separate from, but sometimes complements, buyout programs. During an early-out, workers can leave on immediate annuities if they have 25 years of federal service (regardless of age) or if they are at least age 50 with at least 20 years of service. Normally under the civil service retirement system, workers must be 55 with 30 years' service, 60 with 20 years' service or 62 with five years' service to retire. Employees who take early-outs under the CSRS program will take a 2 percent reduction in benefits for each year they are under age 55.
It will allow the Office of Personnel Management to okay early-outs for any downsizing or reorganizing federal agency. It also retains the right of agencies to determine which employees are offered early retirement. Had the bill not been passed, many agencies would have lost the right to offer early-outs next month. Also, the government would have lost the right to limit early-outs to selected employees.
* Implement a proposal sponsored by Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.) that will permit all federal agencies--at their option--to give child care subsidies to their low-income workers. Agencies will decide eligibility and how much they have to spend.
Mike Causey's e-mail address is email@example.com