House and Senate call for pay parity

The House and Senate both included language in their fiscal 2010 budget resolutions supporting the same pay raise for military members and federal civilian employees.

The pay parity language does not set the actual amount of the 2010 pay raise for military and civilian employees. Those figures will be decided during the appropriations process. The chambers approved their versions of the budget resolution, which provides the foundation for the appropriations process, late on Thursday. The House and Senate now will iron out their differences in conference.

President Obama has proposed a 2 percent pay increase for civilian employees and a 2.9 percent raise for service members.

The budget outline released in February explained the decision within the context of an economic recession and two ongoing wars. "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 outline 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." Obama proposed increasing pay for the military by nearly 1 percentage point more in an effort 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," the document said.

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

There is no law requiring the federal civilian raise to equal the change in the ECI, but lawmakers typically urge the president to give both groups the same pay hike. The absence of pay parity in Obama's budget proposal is similar to 2008, when then-President Bush proposed a 2.9 percent increase for civilian workers and a 3.4 percent boost for military personnel.

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

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