The Bush administration took a stern approach yesterday to a $141 billion spending bill being debated in the Senate that would finance large parts of the government and would provide federal employees with an average 3.1 percent pay raise next year.

In a policy statement, the administration said the president's senior advisers would recommend a veto if the bill "were to significantly erode" the White House's management agenda for the government.

The administration objected to a provision that it said would require all but the smallest competitions between in-house teams and private contractors to be decided on the basis of lowest cost rather than the best value for taxpayers. The statement also expressed support for a Federal Aviation Administration decision that has allowed a large contractor to perform general aviation flight services once provided by 2,500 FAA employees.

White House aides also would recommend a veto if the Senate tacks on an amendment that would revamp how disputes between unions and the FAA are decided, the statement said. The White House said that impasses over contracts should go to Congress and that it would oppose any amendment that would put some other third party in charge of resolving disputes over pay and workplace rules at the FAA.

The White House did not issue a veto threat against the federal pay raise, but pointed out that a raise of 3.1 percent would cost about $1 billion more than what President Bush proposed. The government is not having recruitment and retention problems, the policy statement said, and predicted that the raise "would be very difficult for agencies to absorb."

The House approved the bill, and a 3.1 percent federal raise, in June. The bill provides funds for the departments of Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, the judiciary and other agencies for fiscal 2006. The Senate plans to vote on the bill by week's end, a Senate Appropriations spokeswoman said.

Retirement Wrangle

Fairness and equity issues seemingly pop up all the time across the government.

Yesterday, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) introduced a bill intended to resolve a long-standing complaint by some former District government employees.

The bill would provide federal retirement credits to former D.C. employees who worked for District courts or for parole or public defender services in the late 1990s, before those agencies were transferred to the U.S. government.

When the employees transferred, they retained D.C. retirement benefits and started fresh, with no credits, in the Federal Employees Retirement System. Some of the employees viewed the arrangement as unfairly extending the time it would take them to qualify for federal retirement.

An employee who is 60 and worked 20 years in the D.C. courts would have to work 12 more years to become eligible for retirement, Norton said. Under the bill, Norton said, that employee would qualify for retirement today.

She said the bill included a provision to prevent so-called double dipping by employees entitled to D.C. retirement benefits.

The affected employees -- about 425, by one estimate -- worked for the D.C. courts, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency or the D.C. Public Defender Service. The federal government took over their operations in 1997 and 1998.

Persons covered by FERS may retire at 62 with five years of federal service, at 60 with 20 years of service or by reaching a "minimum retirement age" with at least 10 years of service.

Job Fair at George Mason

OPM will sponsor a job fair at George Mason University on Oct. 25, the agency announced. The fair will open at 10 a.m. and close at 3 p.m.

Speakers include Linda M. Springer, OPM director; Alan Merten, university president, and Rep. Davis.

The Partnership for Public Service will present a seminar, "Where the Jobs Are," and OPM will host a workshop, "Federal Employment Opportunities."

For information about the job fair, call OPM at 202-606-2402.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com