President Bush yesterday ordered pay raises of 22 percent to 29 percent for senior executives in the federal government and took the first steps toward implementing a new federal pay system that eventually will set salaries by locality.
As expected, Bush ordered a 4.1 percent annual increase for all other civilian federal workers, including about 350,000 in the Washington area. Last August the president had recommended a 3.5 percent increase but Congress approved the higher figure during budget deliberations this fall.
Using the sweeping pay overhaul plan approved by Congress this fall, Bush called for additional 8 percent pay increases for federal workers in the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas to help offset higher living expenses there.
Under the legislation revamping the federal pay system, Bush was given authority to provide an immediate geographic pay increase for federal workers in areas where living expenses make it difficult to recruit or retain employees. The president had recommended salary adjustments for workers in the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas in his budget earlier this year.
Bush's executive order also authorized salary increases averaging 29 percent for Vice President Quayle, members of the House, the federal judiciary, Cabinet officers and top political appointees in the administration.
These salaries, ranging from $125,100 for House members to $160,600 for Quayle, House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, were approved a year ago by Congress as part of a compromise in which House members voted to eliminate outside honoraria for speeches.
Salaries for senators, who chose not to increase their pay as much as the House but to retain their honoraria up to $27,500 a year, will rise from $98,400 to $101,900.
The new pay scales will take effect with the first pay period beginning after Jan. 1.
Bush's implementation of the big pay increases for senior government executives, as well as the moves toward a locality-based pay system, drew praise from Constance B. Newman, director of the Office of Personnel Management, who has pushed the changes in Congress.
"President Bush has expressed concern about recruiting and retaining in the federal government the best and the brightest," she said in a statement. "He has talked about it, he has proposed changes, he has worked for the changes. Now he's delivered."
Janice Lachance, director of communications for the American Federation of Government Employees, also praised Bush, particularly for beginning the move toward the locality-based system of federal pay.
"This executive order on pay is a welcome boost for both the federal employee and the taxpayer, as it will go a long way toward stemming the government's serious recruitment and retention problems and ultimately build a stable work force that will provide the type of government service Americans need at this time," Lachance said.
She said Congress and Bush "deserve much credit" for recognizing that the federal service was increasingly less attractive and for revamping the pay system this year to help close the gap between public and private sector salaries.
The 8,000 members of the Senior Executive Service will now make $87,000 to $108,300. Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials will make $101,300 to $138,900.
On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) will make $138,900, while Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) and Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) will receive $113,400. The eight associate justices of the Supreme Court will receive $153,600.
The president's salary remains at $200,000, plus $50,000 in expenses, unchanged since 1969.
The pay overhaul plan approved this fall by Congress will begin to take effect in 1992 and be fully implemented by 1994.
By then, federal salaries will be linked directly to local labor markets. In the meantime, Bush has some flexibility to raise salaries selectively, as he did yesterday.
The new pay system will make it possible to offer a package of bonuses designed to make government service more attractive financially.
Government salaries on average have fallen about 30 percent behind comparable private-sector pay scales, the president's pay adviser determined earlier this year.