Budget analysts put price tag on TSA pay overhaul

Legislation overhauling the pay system for workers at the Transportation Security Administration would raise costs by about $700 million over five years, mainly due to salary increases, the Congressional Budget Office said in an estimate released Wednesday.

The House Homeland Security Committee approved the bill in July. The Transportation Security Workforce Enhancement Act would abolish TSA's own personnel management system, which was set up when the agency was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Instead, TSA workers, most of whom are airport screeners, would be brought into the General Schedule pay system that applies to most other federal employees. If the bill becomes law, about 45,000 screeners would have the ability to enter into collective bargaining agreements.

TSA currently allows screeners to join unions but does not recognize collective bargaining agreements.

CBO estimated that about 36,000 TSA workers would receive raises averaging $1,700 under the bill. No employee would see a pay reduction.

"In total, CBO estimates that moving to the General Schedule would increase outlays by $100 million in 2010 and $626 million over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts," CBO said.

The estimate also anticipates that TSA would need to hire labor-relations specialists. CBO projected that collective-bargaining costs would total $11 million in 2010 and $61 million over the five-year period.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., awaits action by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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