Obama backs 2 percent civilian pay raise, 2.9 percent for military

President Barack Obama proposed a 2 percent pay increase for civilian workers and a 2.9 percent pay hike for military personnel in fiscal 2010, according to a budget outline released on Thursday.

"As families are tightening their belts in this economic crisis across the country, the president ordered a freeze of White House senior staff pay," the budget stated. "In this budget, federal employees also will be asked to do their part … bringing federal pay and benefit practices more in line with the private sector."

On the military side, however, Obama proposed increasing pay by nearly 1 percent more in an effort, the document said, to reflect "the priorities of an administration that is committed to caring for the service members who protect our security and the families who support them."

A 2004 law mandates that military pay raises be equal to the change in the Labor Department's annual Employment Cost Index for the private sector's wages. From September 2007 to September 2008, the change in the ECI was 2.9 percent.

While there is no law that federal civilian pay equal the change in the ECI, the president typically is urged by members of Congress to give both groups the same raise. The absence of pay parity in the budget proposal is similar to 2008, when Bush proposed a 2.9 percent pay increase for civilian workers and a 3.4 percent boost for military personnel.

Last year, Congress ignored President Bush's recommendations, however, and granted both groups a pay raise of 3.9 percent.

Federal labor union officials had a mixed reaction to the budget announcement Thursday.

"Even in this economy, 2 percent is a very small increase for workers that are already paid well below those doing similar work in the private sector," said Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "We will be asking Congress for a bigger raise than 2 percent."

Likewise, the National Treasury Employees Union was critical of the proposal. "We understand that these are tough times, but we are very concerned about breaking the historic linkage of civilian and military pay parity," said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. "We want to find out why these pay raise numbers came out the way they did, and what went into the analysis regarding pay parity. We also want to know what other proposals the administration will be pursuing this year that will affect federal workers."

But Jacque Simon, public policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees, said that while the 2 percent figure represents a modest increase for federal employees, the union understands the need for cuts this year. "We recognize the severity of the economic situation, so we're viewing the pay raise in that context," she said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., pledged to push for equal military and civilian raises. "While it's to be expected that during this time of shared sacrifice there will not likely be a federal employee adjustment equal to last year's level, we must continue to adhere to the long-standing bipartisan principle of pay parity," he said in a statement. "This is just the beginning of the process, and I intend to work with President Obama to ensure a fair and equal adjustment for both our military and civilian personnel who work side-by-side to protect our nation and keep our government running."

Locality pay will account for a portion of the 2 percent hike.

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