Two key Washington area lawmakers introduced a bipartisan resolution yesterday that calls for parity in pay raises between the military and the civil service.
In joining together, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the House's second-ranking Democrat, and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, signaled that they will fight to give federal employees a higher raise next year than the 2 percent across-the-board increase proposed in the president's fiscal 2004 budget.
The bipartisan resolution introduced yesterday, Hoyer said, is "becoming the traditional response to the president's intention to not follow custom or House and Senate preference" on pay raises.
In 15 of the last 18 years, Hoyer said, Congress has provided similar raises to the civil service and the military. "We're going to do it this year, and we are going to do it in 2004," he said.
House and Senate negotiators will soon take up a fiscal 2003 omnibus bill that includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for federal employees this year. The raise is in line with the increase for the military and would override President Bush's decision to go forward with a 3.1 percent raise this month.
Davis said the resolution on 2004 pay "is based on the simple premise that both civilian and military employees are the government's greatest asset. As we fight the war on terrorism at home and abroad, respecting the tradition of pay parity is more important than ever."
The administration announced last week that Bush's budget would recommend a three-part civil service pay plan for next year. Under the plan, all employees would receive a 2 percent raise, high-performing employees would be eligible for an additional base pay raise from a $500 million "performance fund," and senior executives would see the cap on their salaries lifted from $142,500 to $154,700.
The proposed 2 percent across-the-board proposal will likely fall short of Bush's recommendation for a military pay raise. The majority of military personnel will receive an increase of at least 3.7 percent, with senior enlisted personnel receiving more, Pentagon officials said.
The 2 percent proposal also would fall short of the 2.7 percent raise that would be on the table if federal pay law was being followed. The law has been ignored in recent years by the White House because of questions about its methodology.
Administration officials, in announcing the pay plan, said a 2 percent raise is appropriate because of rising red ink in the budget and low inflation rates.
Joining Hoyer and Davis in sponsoring the resolution were Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Tom Allen (D-Maine), Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Max Sandlin (D-Tex.), Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Earlier this month, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced a resolution in the Senate calling for parity in pay raises between the military and the civil service. The Sarbanes bill has 18 co-sponsors, including Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.).
CareFirst, Children's Dispute Moran and Davis asked the Office of Personnel Management yesterday to reopen the federal employee health insurance program to families caught up in the contract dispute between Children's Hospital and CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
In a letter, the two lawmakers pointed out that the contract dispute continued beyond Dec. 9, the end of the federal employee health insurance open season. Many federal employees "were adversely affected by the impasse" and forced to switch insurance plans in order to maintain coverage at Children's, Moran and Davis said.
Calling the dispute a "special circumstance," the lawmakers asked OPM to allow families to switch back to CareFirst now that the dispute has ended.
Federal Diary Live In his fiscal 2004 budget, Bush will propose setting up a $500 million fund to boost the pay of the government's best employees. What factors should the administration consider in creating a pay-for-performance component in federal salaries? Share your views at noon today on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com.
Stephen Barr's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.