Eight Washington area House members have announced plans to offer an amendment that would ensure civil service employees get the same raise next year as the military -- 3.5 percent.
In a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and ranking Democrat David R. Obey (Wis.), the eight lawmakers urged them to support "parity in pay adjustments."
The letter pointed out that on March 31, the House voted 299 to 126 in favor of providing parity raises to the civil service and the military in 2005.
"This important resolution reiterated the long-standing sense of the House regarding annual federal employee pay adjustments," the letter said, noting that "in nearly every year over the last two decades the annual pay adjustments have been identical."
The eight lawmakers said, "We firmly believe it is imperative to continue this tradition." The men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are fighting terrorism and are being supported by civil service employees at the Defense Department, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, State Department and other agencies, the letter writers said.
The letter was signed by Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Jo Ann S. Davis (R-Va.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
House-Senate negotiators are working on defense authorization and appropriations bills that would provide a 3.5 percent raise to the military next year. In his fiscal 2005 budget plan, President Bush recommended a 1.5 percent raise for the civil service.
The eight lawmakers said they would offer the pay parity amendment when the Appropriations Committee takes up the fiscal 2005 spending bill for the Transportation and Treasury departments. The bill, crafted by Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), was approved in subcommittee last week.
The Bush administration opposes the pay parity approach, contending that the president's proposal would offset the rise in inflation. The administration also asked Congress to set aside payroll dollars to reward the best workers rather than provide across-the-board raises.
Senate Passes TSP Bill
The Senate has approved a bill that would allow federal employees and members of the armed forces to join the Thrift Savings Plan at any time and to adjust how much they contribute.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), seeks to update the retirement savings program by eliminating a requirement for twice yearly "open seasons." The modification, Collins said, "will give employees more control over their investment decisions."
The bill was approved on a voice vote Friday. The House Government Reform Committee is considering similar legislation, sponsored by Reps. Thomas Davis and Jo Ann Davis, and hopes to act soon, a committee spokesman said.
The TSP open seasons were initially set up by Congress as a way to help government employees sort through options in the 401(k)-type plan. But that view is now seen as outdated, in part because TSP shifted its operations last year to a new record-keeping system that permits daily transactions.
Open seasons are held April 5 through June 30 and Oct. 15 through Dec. 31. New employees have 60 days to enroll in the TSP and if they fail to do so must wait until the next open season. Employees who stop their TSP contributions must wait until the second open season to restart their contributions, which can mean a delay of close to a year.
Collins's bill would abolish the open season requirements for employee contributions but keep the framework in place for agency contributions. As a result, the bill would not affect when matching contributions, made by agencies, begin for new employees -- after the second open season, determined by the person's date of hire.
In its estimate of the bill's costs, the Congressional Budget Office said that the longer a person works for the government, "the greater percentage of pay one usually devotes to TSP contributions." The proposed changes, the office said, will probably lead participants "to increase their contributions slightly sooner than they would have otherwise."
The office estimated that implementing the bill would cost $2 million in 2005 and $30 million total from 2005 to 2014. It also estimated that the bill would decrease tax revenue by $1 million in 2005 and $23 million over that same period.