Washington area lawmakers sent a written appeal to President Bush Thursday, voicing their support for improving federal employee pay and benefits. The letter, signed by 11 lawmakers from Virginia and Maryland, lists pay as a major stumbling block for federal workers, who have "seen their benefits reduced in the name of deficit reduction." Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics bolstered the lawmakers' assertion that federal workers are not fairly compensated. According to the data, there is a 32 percent pay gap between civilian employees and their private sector counterparts. The lawmakers also blasted past administrations for not implementing the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA). Passed in 1990, FEPCA included a formula aimed at closing the gap between federal and private sector salaries over 10 years beginning in 1994. The Clinton administration used a loophole in the law to issue smaller raises each year because it believed that the FEPCA methodology is flawed and because it did not want to increase federal spending. "This lack of implementation is already impacting the government's ability to recruit and retain employees at a time when it can ill afford to do so," the letter said. President Bush is expected to project next year's civilian pay raise next month, as part of his fiscal 2002 budget. Last week, Bush pledged to increase military spending by $1.4 billion in order to fund a military pay raise in fiscal 2002. Depending on how the money is allocated, the pay raise could be anywhere from 4.6 percent to 7 percent. The legislators also cited their concern about the rising cost of federal health insurance premiums. The rates for 2001 climbed an average of 10.5 percent, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Premiums rose an average of 9.3 percent for the year 2000 and 1999 saw an increase of 9.5 percent. The letter mirrors the year's priorities for many federal employee unions, including the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Federation of Government Employees, the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association. Those signing the letter were Sens. George Allen, R-Va., John Warner, R-Va., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. and Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md. and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., Tom Davis, R-Va., Steny Hoyer, D-Md., James Moran, D-Va., Connie Morella, R-Md., Frank Wolf, R-Va. and Albert Wynn, D-Md.