Lawmaker, union stand behind 4.1 percent pay raise

Though the Bush administration announced last week that it would limit the 2003 civilian pay raise to 3.1 percent, congressional and union leaders said Monday they will continue to fight for a 4.1 percent raise.

In a statement released Monday, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he plans to push for a 4.1 percent pay increase in the 2003 Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill or added to an omnibus bill when Congress reconvenes next year and takes up the rest of the fiscal 2003 spending measures.

"Before the 107th Congress adjourned, I had a good conversation with Speaker [Dennis] Hastert, R-Ill., regarding a 4.1 percent pay adjustment for federal employees, and I am confident that we will authorize that adjustment when Congress reconvenes in January," Hoyer said.

In a Nov. 27 letter to House and Senate leaders, President Bush said that granting a pay raise larger than 3.1 percent would jeopardize homeland security efforts. But Hoyer disputes that assertion.

"Federal employees from the CIA to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to the Defense Department are on the front lines of efforts to protect our communities from terrorists," Hoyer said.

President Bush included a 2.6 percent pay raise for civilian employees and a 4.1 percent raise for military service members when he issued his 2003 budget proposal in February. Hoyer and other lawmakers immediately began working to get employees a 3.1 percent across-the-board increase plus a 1 percent average locality-based increase.

In July, the House approved a 4.1 percent average raise for civilian employees as part of the fiscal 2003 Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the pay raise in its version of the fiscal 2003 Treasury-Postal bill, but the full Senate adjourned without voting on the legislation. Agencies are now operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Jan. 11.

Last month, Hoyer and Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., Albert Wynn, D-Md., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Jim Moran, D-Va., expressed confidence that they could negotiate a 4.1 percent raise when Congress finally takes up the remaining federal spending bills early next year.

This latest move by Bush sends the wrong message to federal employees, Hoyer said. "Anything less than the 4.1 percent pay adjustment sends the regrettable message that the services they provide to America every day are not valued," he said.

In another statement released Monday, National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said the smaller pay raise illustrates the president's low opinion of federal employees.

"The president's decision is further evidence of the administration's low regard for the professionalism and dedication of the federal workforce, and for the vital services provided to the nation by federal employees," Kelley said. "Even more than that, however, this mistaken and unwise decision completely ignores the critical role pay plays in making the federal government a competitive employer with the private sector. Members of the 107th Congress clearly understood that, as evidenced by the bipartisan and bicameral support for a 4.1 percent raise in 2003."

The Office of Management and Budget did not respond directly to questions about a possible presidential veto of legislation containing a 4.1 percent pay raise for civilian employees.

"If Congress wants to make room within the budget for 4.1 percent-which would cost about $1 billion-it's up to them, but they do know they have an overall budget figure to stick to," said OMB spokeswoman Amy Call.

"Right now the budget is in deficit and the country has some very important priorities in fighting the war on terrorism, and 3.1 percent is a very generous raise-more than a lot of Americans in private companies are getting," Call said. "And it's more than the 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) Social Security recipients are getting, so we do feel that 3.1 percent is a good raise for federal employees."

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